House Dems Put Paid Family Leave Back in Spending Bill After Biden Removed It to Assuage Right Wing

© REUTERS / Jonathan ErnstU.S. House Speaker Pelosi holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
U.S. House Speaker Pelosi holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.11.2021
The latest development in negotiations for the Democrats’ massive spending package has seen lawmakers rebel against a plan put forth by US President Joe Biden, returning to the bill a provision for paid family leave the president had taken out to ease its passage.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the move in a Wednesday letter to her colleagues, saying it had been done “at the urging of many members of the caucus.”
When Biden announced the American Families Plan in May, a social spending plan intended to serve as one component of a larger post-pandemic economic restart, it included 12 weeks of paid family leave. However, through months of compilation and negotiation, the resultant Build Back Better Act bill had been whittled down to providing just four weeks of leave.

“The reason it’s down to four weeks is I can’t get 12 weeks,” Biden said at a CNN-hosted town hall on October 21. However, in the framework the White House released a week later, paid family leave was totally absent.

The US is the only industrialized nation without a national statutory paid maternity, paternity or parental leave. Some federal programs offer limited paid or unpaid leave, and some states offer their own paid leave programs, as well.
Pelosi said on Tuesday she believed all outstanding concerns about the bill, which totals some $1.75 trillion over the next decade, could be resolved by the end of the day, a timeline that would have allowed for a vote by the end of the week. However, House Dems won’t hold a vote on the bill unless they know they have 50 votes in the Senate - something not yet guaranteed, due to the continued intransigence of moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has used his leverage as a deciding vote to force more than a trillion dollars out of the bill’s provisions thus far.
Manchin made clear on Wednesday his continued opposition to paid family leave, telling reporters that the bill is “the wrong place to put it because it’s a social expansion … let’s get our financial house in order and then be able to tackle all of these.”
He said earlier this week they are “not in a rush right now” and that negotiations will take “quite a while” to settle.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he thinks Democrats have the votes in both houses of Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act.
Politico reported on Wednesday that among those putting pressure on senators to support the bill has been Meghan Markle, the California-born former Duchess of Sussex, who, along with her husband Prince Harry, stepped down from their British royal duties last year and moved to the United States.
Sen. Shelley Capito, Manchin’s Republican colleague from West Virginia, described the situation.
“I’m in my car. I’m driving. It says caller ID blocked. Honestly … I thought it was Sen. Manchin. His calls come in blocked. And she goes 'Sen. Capito?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.’”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also got a call from the royal, telling Politico, “I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it.“ Markle lives in Montecito, California.
The UK offers 12 weeks of full-rate equivalent paid leave and a total of 52 weeks of maternity leave, although the stipend given each week steadily declines. After birth, a two-week leave is compulsory for all women workers, or four weeks for women factory workers.
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