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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are privately reaching out to Republicans to cinch a separate, bipartisan deal for paid family leave after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) crushed hopes of including it in President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan.

Why it matters: The end-around is part of a broader effort to provide paid time off from work to care for others, regardless of the method. Some Republicans sound amenable, depending on the timing.

  • Senate Republicans plan to sit on the sidelines until Democrats concede it won’t be in the Build Back Better agenda the president is trying to pass through the partisan budget reconciliation process, aides tell Axios.
  • Once that concession is made, the aides say, GOP senators will be more open to negotiations.

Biden's also signaled he'd support a separate effort.

  • During a closed-door meeting with House members on Oct. 27, he promised he'd do his best to move it separately if it's not included in his Build Back Better package, a Democratic source told Axios.

What we're hearing: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who's been leading paid leave negotiations in the Senate, and her staff have been talking generally with fellow senators and Republican staff to lay the groundwork for a potential bipartisan deal.

  • Gillibrand told Axios she's had discussions with 10 Republican senators and hopes Manchin would support it.
  • Her outreach has included conversations with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one aide told Axios.
  • The process has been “slow, and in the nascent stages,” the aide said.

Between the lines: The talks hit a speed bump after it leaked that Gillibrand had given Meghan Markle the private cellphone numbers of senators in the hope the Duchess of Sussex could pressure them to act.

  • Some members considered that a breach of protocol, leaving them skeptical about future negotiations, two of the aides said.
  • They also have complained Gillibrand hasn't reached out to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who led a tax incentive program in 2017 that became the first-ever U.S. nationwide paid family leave policy.

Go deeper: Manchin has repeatedly made clear he has no interest in supporting a paid leave provision through the reconciliation process.

  • The senator said he's open to a program structured like Social Security, in which everyone pays into it and then individuals use it as needed.
  • He says that type of program can't be done through reconciliation, because it needs to be set up through a separate Treasury fund.
  • Given Manchin effectively holds veto power over the BBB plan in the 50-50 Senate, that stance makes a potential bipartisan bill the only realistic option moving forward.

What they're saying: Republicans "are more interested in tax benefits and different frameworks, not exactly what [Manchin's] interested in, which is more of an earned benefit," Gillibrand told Axios.

  • "I want to talk about what we can do now and what we can do together," she said.

What's next: Organizations like the Fairness Project are gearing up to take their fight to the state level.

  • The groups plan to put paid leave on the ballot as a referendum question in dozens of states in 2022.

Go deeper

Fight over Putin's pipeline consumes Congress

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration, House and Senate Democrats and even the German government have been engaged in a multi-pronged effort to stop Congress from imposing mandatory sanctions on a Kremlin-backed natural gas pipeline.

Why it matters: President Biden's decision to let Nord Stream 2 proceed has put his allies in an uncomfortable bind. Republicans have already blocked dozens of Biden's foreign-policy nominees, and the dispute threatened to derail an annual defense bill passed by Congress every year for six decades.

Democrats pushing Biden to suspend federal gas tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Centrist Democrats are pushing President Biden to suspend the federal gas tax as a way of showing concern about inflation.

Why it matters: It's the strongest response yet from Democrats as Republicans make inflation a key part of their 2022 campaign messaging — but so far it's largely coming from candidates, not party leaders in Washington.

Dec 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: GOP warns Biden about Fed pick

Richard Cordray is seen during his 2018 Ohio gubernatorial bid. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Key Republicans are warning President Biden not to nominate Richard Cordray, a progressive and former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to be the top banking regulator on the Federal Reserve.

Driving the news: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is indicating the GOP will use a potential Cordray nomination to re-litigate his tenure at the CFBP, an agency devised by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and fiercely opposed by most Republicans.