Rubio rolls out paid parental leave bill
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday rolled out legislation to create a paid parental leave benefit, furthering a push from Republicans to take action on the topic.
Rubio’s bill would allow new parents to receive early Social Security benefits to use for paid leave, in exchange for delaying the collection of Social Security benefits by about three to six months when they retire.
“For the Republican Party [paid leave is] a new issue. It’s an issue that’s traditionally associated with the Democratic Party and the left,” Rubio said at a press conference Thursday. “But I don’t think issues that are good for our children and good for families should be ideological or partisan.”
Republicans have been traditionally been reluctant to push for federal paid family leave programs due to concerns about increasing taxes and the size of government.
But more recently, Republicans have been expressing interest in taking on the issue. The tax-cut law President Trump signed in December provides tax credits to companies that provide paid leave to their workers. And paid family leave has also been an issue stressed by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser.
Ivanka Trump said Thursday at an event hosted by Axios that she’s looking forward to reading the text of Rubio’s bill “and reacting to it.”
She also acknowledged that a bill on the paid leave issue is unlikely to become law this year.
“Really, at this point, we’re curating ideas with the hope of being able to build consensus, but it will take time,” she said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that it can happen next year.”
Rubio agreed that it would take time to pass legislation because it’s “pretty significant reform.” He said that Ivanka has encouraged Congress and stakeholders to have a “competition of ideas,” and that he sees is proposal as an “opening bid” and hopes other proposals also emerge.
Under Rubio’s bill, which he introduced this week, a new parent that elects to participate would receive an amount equal to three months of what they’d get in Social Security benefits. Households that receive the benefit can use it however they want as long as they take at least two months of leave, and spouses in two-parent households would be able to transfer the benefits to each other, according to Rubio’s office.
Rubio’s office said that most parents making below the median family income of about $70,000 would be able to have the benefit cover more than 70 percent of their wages for two months, and that many parents on the lower end of the income spectrum would be able to use the benefit amount to help finance longer-term parental leave.
Parents are eligible to receive the benefit if they meet certain work-history requirements. Stay-at-home parents who have past substantial work history would be eligible.
The bill includes a three-year expiration date, which Rubio’s office said was included because the bill wouldn’t be scored accurately by the Congressional Budget Office without a sunset.
Rubio said his goal is to create a permanent policy.
Rubio spoke about his bill at a press conference with Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), who plans to introduce similar legislation in the House in September.
Wagner said that her bill would also allow new parents to receive paid leave through early Social Security benefits, but that her measure would be paid for by having participants in the program have a small reduction in their retirement benefits for a period of time, rather than a delay of benefits at retirement.
Addressing frequent conservative concerns, Rubio and Wagner stressed that their approach would not create new mandates for businesses or raise taxes.
“It’s a practical, conservative solution for America’s families,” Wagner said. “It’s a smart policy that enables families to make their own financial planning decisions.”
Rubio and Wagner’s proposals are based on a proposal from the conservative Independent Women’s Forum. The group’s president, Carrie Lukas, praised Rubio’s measure.
“The Rubio bill is a win-win for everyone: women, families, employers, employees, and the economy. Republicans and Democrats should get behind this important approach to paid leave,” she said in a statement.
But the ideas in the bill have drawn some opposition.
Some on the left are critical of the fact that the bill only focuses on leave for new parents and doesn’t also provide benefits for people caring for a sick relative or tending to their own medical issues. They’re also concerned it would lead to a cut in Social Security benefits for those who take the paid leave.
Democrats have rallied behind a bill introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), that would create a paid family leave program that’s paid for through a slight payroll-tax increase.
Shilpa Phadke, vice president of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress, on Wednesday said Rubio’s proposal was a “sham parental leave-only proposal” saying it was “out of touch with the needs of working families.”
Rubio and Wagner rebutted the criticism that their proposals would force people to choose between their children and their retirement security, stressing that receiving the paid-leave benefit would be optional and that many people currently have no paid-leave option.
“It doesn’t do anything to undermine your retirement. It keeps the same retirement, it just allows you to use a portion of it at a different stage in your life when you might need it more,” Rubio said.
There have also been concerns from groups on the right that a paid-family leave proposal that takes the form of early Social Security benefits would hasten the insolvency of the Social Security trust funds, since most people that would collect the benefit in the near term won’t retire until after the trust funds’ expected exhaustion date.
Rubio’s bill addresses this issue by having Treasury provide the Social Security program with a loan that would be paid back later with the savings realized once paid-leave recipients retire, the senator’s office said.
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