Oct 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Progressives plan rally to keep paid family leave in plan

A wide shot of the White House from the south

Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

Progressive groups will rally Thursday on the Ellipse to press President Biden and Congress to keep paid family medical leave in the social spending package that ultimately gets a vote, Axios has learned.

The big picture: Look for these and other advocates to step up their public engagement to keep their cherished programs from being axed, as congressional negotiators trim the size of Democrats' budget reconciliation package to roughly $2 trillion, from a $3.5 trillion starting point.

Between the lines: Some of the biggest supporters of a paid leave proposal costing as much as $500 billion have been reading tea leaves since President Biden did not mention it in his Michigan speech last week.

Driving the news: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday appeared to be bracing her caucus for major proposals to be scrapped from the package when she told colleagues in a memo that Congress should do “fewer things well.”

  • But on Tuesday she said she was “disappointed” with the prospect of cutting entire programs. She promised to talk it over with lawmakers and seemed to suggest that Congress could instead shrink its package by “mostly cutting back on the years” of committed spending.
  • That's what progressives including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wa.) have been seeking. They're prepared to risk losing some of these programs down the line but favor a short-term strategy of seeing what subsidies and tax relief becomes popular, then daring future members of Congress to cut them.

Be smart: Through the Care Can’t Wait Coalition, groups are seeking to remain united rather than turn against one another's programs to save their own.

  • That solidarity extends to the local level with more than 550 organizations signing a letter to Democratic congressional leaders arguing “these interconnected investments are most successful when they are paired together.”

Details: Democrats have three main caregiving proposals: paid family medical leave, a new program to help cover costs for caring for an older family member and subsidies for day care and universal preschool.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) angered progressives when he told colleagues that progressives need to pick just one of the three, Axios reported last week.
  • Biden also wants to extend child tax credits, which he funded for one year in the American Rescue Plan, giving families up to $3,600 a year per kid for another four years.
  • Pelosi on Tuesday called the family section of the overall package “transformative” before hinting that she was committed to helping families in the early stages of life. She said the “child tax credit, child care and universal pre-K really go together.”

What we're watching: Paid leave advocates are making it clear that they supported the American Families Plan, which dedicated $225 billion for the program, much lower than the $500 billion in the House version. They're willing to trim the number of weeks from 12 to four that someone can take off to care for a family member.

  • But they're insisting that the program should be funded for a full 10-year budget window.

The bottom line: At a certain point, the groups now presenting a unified front may be asked to endorse a final bill that doesn’t include their specific program.

  • If Manchin insists on a $1.5 trillion ceiling, hard choices will be unavoidable and groups will have choose sides.
Go deeper