Paid leave, a major part of Democrats’ wide-ranging social-spending bill, may be left on the cutting-room floor as the party’s moderates and progressives try to hammer out an agreement this week.
President Joe Biden last week said the proposed program had been cut to four weeks in negotiations, from Democrats’ original idea of giving all U.S. workers up to 12 weeks of paid family medical leave.
On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Democrats may have to abandon sick leave and focus only on limited benefits for new parents with children, according to the Washington Post.
“It’s not looking good, and I wish it were otherwise,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, according to the Post. “We’re still trying to talk about” family leave, she added.
But the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday that paid family leave was being dropped from the proposal entirely.
Proponents of paid leave are running into opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat whose vote is key in the evenly divided Senate.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday, citing financial strain faced by other government programs.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, separately said she has a paid-leave proposal and is trying to meet with Manchin on Wednesday.
The developments on paid leave came the same day as a Congressional hearing where some witnesses emphasized the importance of paid leave to lawmakers.
“Economic growth in 20 years depends on the choices we make today about investing in our youngest members of society,” said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan who was once a member of the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Stevenson, speaking to members of the Joint Economic Committee, said paid leave is crucial for greater labor force participation and increases worker retention.
Small business owner Daniel Swenson-Klatt also paid leave would be one way to make life easier for him and his staff at the Butter Bakery Café in Minneapolis, Minn. “A comprehensive paid leave program would be a way for my staff to take time off for health and personal reasons that doesn’t put my business or their job at jeopardy,” Swenson-Klatt said.
Andrew Keshner contributed to this report.