Liberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow

The left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) issued a report Tuesday arguing that Republicans' paid leave proposals are too narrow because they only provide paid leave to new parents.

"Policymakers who promote these narrow proposals minimize the breadth and depth of families' caregiving challenges and fail to respond to the needs of families when they experience a serious illness or injury," CAP's Diana Boesch wrote in the report. "For children and families to truly benefit under a paid leave policy, policymakers must ensure that workers have access to comprehensive paid family and medical leave."

The report comes as Republicans have shown a growing interest in pursuing paid parental leave legislation. The issue has been a top priority of Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser.

President Trump's budgets have called for at least six weeks of paid leave for parents after the birth or adoption of a child. A group of Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mitt Romney (Utah) and Reps. Ann Wagner (Mo.) and Dan Crenshaw (Texas), introduced legislation in March that would allow new parents to receive paid-leave benefits in the form of early Social Security benefits. In exchange, the new parents would have to increase their Social Security retirement age by three to six months per leave or receive a reduction in their Social Security benefits for the first five years of their retirements. 

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) have also put forth a similar paid parental leave proposal linked to Social Security. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is also expected to offer a bipartisan paid-leave proposal in the near future with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), but has not provided many details about what the plan will look like.

Lee and Ernst said in a Q&A document that they focused their plan on paid parental leave because the future of Social Security depends on parents having children who become taxpaying adults. They also said that parental leave, unlike sick leave, is planned, making it easier to accurately calculate a federal benefit.

But CAP said it's important for paid-leave proposals to provide benefits for other leaves in addition to after the birth or adoption of a child.

The think tank analyzed data in a 2012 survey conducted for the Department of Labor and found that only about 18 percent of leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the preceding 12 months were to care for a new child, while most time people took was used either to care for their own illness or a family member's illness. The FMLA guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually.

CAP also said that a paid-leave benefit that only helps new parents would "not benefit children whose parents and caregivers needed access to other types of leaves."

CAP's analysis of the 2012 survey found that more than half of leaves taken under the FMLA were taken by workers who were caring for children. Only about one-third of those leaves were to care for a new child.

Additionally, the analysis of the 2012 survey found that about 28 percent of leaves taken to care for a relative were taken to care for a child.

"Only a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy would ensure that children can be cared for when they have serious illnesses or injuries, or when their parent or caregiver has a serious medical condition," the report stated.

While CAP's report was critical of GOP proposals focused on benefits for new parents, the report was positive about legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), known as the FAMILY Act, that would provide paid leave to workers to care for a new child, their own illness and family members with illnesses.

Gillibrand is running for president, and several other presidential candidates also back her proposal. Gillibrand's bill would be paid for through a small increase in payroll taxes.

"Only a comprehensive paid family and medical leave proposal, such as the FAMILY Act, will provide a real solution for workers, children, and families," CAP wrote.