Republicans weigh Social Security paid leave plan

Republicans weigh Social Security paid leave plan
© Greg Nash

A few Senate Republicans are weighing a voluntary paid leave proposal that would allow parents to collect Social Security benefits early if they agree to defer their retirement benefits later in life to offset the costs.

GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe McConnell warns Trump against withdrawing troops from Syria The American people deserve a debate about Ukrainian military aid MORE (Utah), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Rubio criticizes Warren response on same-sex marriage opposition as condescending MORE (Fla.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstRepublicans wrestle with impeachment strategy McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows Iowa Democrat tops Ernst in third-quarter fundraising for Senate race MORE (Iowa) expressed support for the idea, provided by the conservative Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), calling it “novel” and “creative.” But the lawmakers noted that a formal piece of legislation still needs to be crafted.

“As you might imagine, turning good ideas into good legislation takes time,” Lee said in a call with reporters Wednesday. “Getting this right means asking the right questions and then figuring out how to answer them.”

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According to IWF’s six-page proposal, parents could take up to 12 weeks and receive on average 45 percent of their pay in a Social Security parental benefit that’s calculated using the same formula as Social Security disability benefits.

The IWF estimates the average wage worker would receive $1,175 per month.

Lee said lawmakers are trying to figure out how to structure benefits so they are delivered to families when they need them, how the federal law should interact with state paid leave laws and how to keep the law from hastening the Social Security Trust Fund's 2034 insolvency date.

In a statement, read by his legislative director, Rubio said a paid parental leave proposal that increases family flexibility in a fiscally responsible way like the IWF’s proposal “would not only represent conservatism meeting the challenges of the 21st century, it would remain true to Social Security's fundamental principle of providing assistance to dependents in our care.”

Paid family leave proposals have been swirling on Capitol Hill for years, but the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation without a federal paid leave policy.

Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroOvernight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood charges into 2020 | PhRMA CEO warns against Pelosi drug pricing bill | Medicaid work requirements costing states millions On The Money: Trump to meet China's vice premier during trade talks | Appeals court says Deutsche Bank doesn't have Trump's tax returns | House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey to retire DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief MORE (Conn.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Democrats divided on surprise medical bill fix NYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program MORE (Va.) were quick the criticize the proposal.

In statements, DeLauro called the plan “woefully insufficient,” while Scott expressed fears about shortchanging Social Security benefits for seniors.

“Workers should not have to permanently cut their Social Security retirement benefits in order to spend time with a newborn child, and any paid leave plan that reflects the needs of working people and families must address the need to deal with a personal or family member’s serious illness,” DeLauro said.

“Legislation that reflects the Independent Women’s Forum plan to raid Social Security to pay for parental leave benefits would jeopardize workers’ future retirement security and would hurt women, low-wage workers and workers of color the most,” she added.

DeLauro has introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, a companion bill to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' Three 2020 candidates have missed about half of Senate votes MORE’s (D-N.Y.) legislation in the Senate. The bill calls for a 0.2 percent employee payroll tax and a 0.2 percent employer tax to fund 12 weeks of paid leave during which workers would earn 66 percent of their monthly wages.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which supports this proposal, the average worker would pay less than $1.50 per week in new taxes.