White House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers

The White House and Congress have reached a tentative agreement to grant 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all federal workers, according to a congressional source, in what would be a historic deal.

A draft for a must-pass defense policy bill includes language that would grant the paid leave for 2.1 million civilians who work for the government to care for a new baby after birth, adoption or the initiation of foster care.

The draft was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Current law allows military members to get 12 weeks of paid family leave, while civilians get 12 weeks leave without pay and are paid by using accumulated annual or sick leave.

To qualify for the new benefits, employees must have been working for the federal government for at least a year and stay in their posts for at least 12 weeks after returning from leave. The requirement could be waived for a physical, mental or other problem out of the parent’s control. 

The source familiar with negotiations credited Democrats with getting the provision in the bill, arguing that “Republicans had resisted for weeks.” Asked why the deal was being classified as “tentative,” the source added that the defense policy bill has not been finalized, and anything in the bill is classified as tentative until it has been posted.

Lawmakers are reportedly still waiting on an estimate on the proposal’s cost from the Congressional Budget Office.

Asked about the tentative agreement, a Democratic aide was more cautious, saying they were “nearing agreement on a final [bill] that includes the 12 weeks in exchange for space force.”

Lawmakers have been haggling over Trump’s request for a creation of Space Force as a new military branch under the control of the Department of the Air Force as they’ve tried to finalize the defense policy bill.

The initial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the House would create a “Space Corp.” The Senate bill greenlighted a “Space Force,” but did not specifically authorize a new branch of the military. 

To become law, the language in the bill would need: sign-off from leadership of both chambers of Congress and the chair and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees; signatures from a majority of members of Congress in charge negotiating the deal; and approval by a floor vote.

The House-passed version of the defense policy bill already contains language granting civilian government employees 12 weeks of paid family leave.

Proponents of the move say it would provide equal benefits to civil and military public servants and save money on recruiting

“I’m pleased that parental leave to nearly 3 million American workers is set to be included in the final NDAA,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a member of the conference committee tasked with negotiating the final NDAA deal. “This means that the largest employer in the country now provides basic parental leave, a huge step, and we must work to ensure that paid leave for other family emergencies will be added in the future.”

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, also praised the plan.

“As the country’s largest employer, the United States Government must lead by example. After three years of relentless advocacy, the passage of the NDAA will secure Paid Parental Leave for ALL federal employees,” she said in a statement. “This will mark a HUGE step forward towards making paid leave a reality for all Americans. This new policy represents another incredible win for millions of hard-working American families courtesy of President Trump.”

However, some conservatives reportedly remain skeptical about the plan’s cost.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who is helping craft the legislation, declined to discuss details about the provision Friday when asked about the bill.

Updated: 11:15 p.m.

Tags Adam Smith Donald Trump Family law Ivanka Trump Kirsten Gillibrand Parental leave
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