Nov 25, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Congress' partisan divide on paid family leave

The Capitol

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Congressional Republicans have come around to supporting paid family leave policies, but their ideas differ greatly from Democratic proposals, a New York Times analysis shows.

The big picture: Democrats back creating a federal fund for new parents that would be financed with a payroll tax increase, while Republicans have proposed plans that would allow new parents to dip into their future federal benefits.

The big picture: Democrats introduced the Family Act in 2013, which would cover 12 weeks of partly paid leave for new parents (or workers who are seriously ill or injured) and would be financed by a 0.2% increase in payroll taxes on employers and employees.

  • Since its introduction, the bill has stalled in Congress because most Republicans refuse to back a tax increase.
  • Republicans have pitched multiple proposals. One would allow new parents to collect Social Security benefits early in exchange for receiving less money when they retire. Another lets people use pretax savings accounts to save for leave, and a third creates a tax credit for companies that voluntarily provide family leave.
  • Like their representatives, voters largely agree on paid leave but disagree on who should pay for it.

There is a bipartisan bill in both the House and Senate that is expected to be introduced in the next month. Under this plan, parents could withdraw $5,000 of their child tax credits after birth for paid leave or other infant care expenses, but they would collect a smaller credit in the future.

  • However, it's still unclear if this bill would see wide buy-in from Democrats.

Of note: President Trump was among the first Republican presidential candidates to call for paid leave in 2016. The White House's budget proposal would require states to provide at least six weeks of paid family leave to new parents, including adoptive parents.

  • The proposal gives states broad flexibility to determine how they finance the benefit.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with more details from the White House's budget proposal.

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