Senate

Democrats cutting paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin opposition

Democrats are expected to drop paid leave from President Biden's sweeping spending plan, two sources familiar with the talks confirmed to The Hill. 

The decision, absent a major reversal, is a blow to Democrats' hopes of using the social spending plan to offer what they initially envisioned as being 12 weeks of paid leave, which then was scaled back to four weeks and then was in limbo for much of this week.  

A source familiar told The Hill that paid leave is being dropped from the bill by the Senate.  

A second source familiar with the talks described Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as the holdup to getting paid leave into the bill, describing him as "firm" in his opposition and suggesting it was out absent a shift by him. 

"It likely will not be in the final bill, despite many members lobbying him to support," the source added. 

Democrats had been working for days to try to come up with a paid leave policy that could satisfy Manchin. Because Democrats only have 50 votes, they need all their members on board.  

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has offered multiple versions of a paid leave proposal as she's tried to get Manchin to "yes." Democrats, earlier Wednesday, described the latest offer as cutting sick leave from the spending plan but providing 12 weeks of parental leave. 

"I'm still working hard," Gillibrand said while declining to talk about details because "I haven't gotten feedback from Joe."

Gillibrand, in a statement on Wednesday afternoon, vowed that she will continue to push for inclusion of paid leave until the spending bill is finalized. Though Democrats are hoping to get a deal on a framework this week, they likely have weeks of additional haggling over the details and finalizing text. 

"Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan," Gillibrand said in a statement. 

Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, also complained about her male colleagues, though she didn't directly name Manchin.  

"We are not going to allow one or two men to tell women, millions of them in this country, that they can't take paid leave," she said.

Gillibrand, Murray and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) were spotted talking with Manchin during Senate votes early Wednesday evening as they tried to win him over. 

"He said he'd keep an open mind. He's not a no," Murray told reporters afterward, saying paid leave was still on the table.

Gillibrand added that she pitched Manchin during the vote, adding, "He's looking into the details, and he said he would remain open-minded." 

"We are continuing to negotiate in good faith, and we'll try to get a robust paid leave package in the bill ... by the time the bill closes," Gillibrand told reporters.

Manchin's pushback comes as he's raised concerns about expanding social benefits, arguing that the country can't become an "entitlement society." Asked about including the paid leave program, he told reporters on Wednesday, "I just can't do it."

Manchin declined to comment on Murray's proposal but signaled concerns about whether paid leave belongs in the spending bill. 

"To put this into a reconciliation bill, major policy, is not the place to do it," Manchin told reporters.

Asked if he was saying paid leave was out of the bill, he added, "I'm just saying we have to be careful what we're doing. If we're going to do it, do it right." 

Alexander Bolton contributed reporting.

Updated at 6:50 p.m.

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