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Biden in his campaign promised more family and medical leave for workers. Now Democrats are said to be stripping the benefits from his signature social-spending package.

·3 min read
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President Joe Biden stands outside behind a podium with the presidential seal, grabbing his chin and slightly covering his mouth in a pensive look.
President Joe Biden. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Sources told Politico paid family and medical leave were being cut from the social-spending bill.

  • It'd be yet another big cut as the bill gets whittled down during negotiations among Democrats.

  • Lawmakers and advocates, however, say the fight to implement paid leave isn't over.

Senate Democrats have decided to strip paid family- and medical-leave benefits from President Joe Biden's social-spending package, the Politico reporter Eleanor Mueller said on Wednesday.

Three sources told Mueller that attempts to water down the bill didn't work out. In recent weeks, Democrats have scrambled for new revenue sources to pay for the "Build Back Better" bill, which was initially targeted at $4 trillion and may end up at $1.5 trillion or smaller. The key centrist Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have variously opposed most of the new tax proposals that Democrats have suggested.

"It is still a little inconceivable to me that after the last 18 months - and everything we saw during the course of the pandemic - that we are hearing that Congress is going to leave paid leave for another day," Laura Narefsky, the counsel on education and workplace justice at the National Women's Law Center, told Insider.

"If the news reports are true, this is a devastating and incomprehensible blow to American families," Vicki Shabo, a paid-leave expert at the think tank New America, told Insider.

She added: "This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build on the Family and Medical Leave Act to finally bring the promise of paid leave to the US, to end its outlier status, and to make good on promises that the president ran on."

The family- and medical-leave benefits were a central focus of Biden's during his 2020 campaign. Even if enacted, they would leave Americans with some of the stingiest leave benefits in the developed world, The New York Times' Upshot reported.

The US is an outlier when it comes to benefits. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that out of 41 countries, the US was the only one not to mandate paid leave. The US also has no mandated federal sick leave.

Advocates for paid leave argue that it bolsters the economy, with an analysis from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst finding that paid leave would increase Americans' incomes by $28.5 billion every year.

Paid leave would be the latest of many cuts Democrats are said to have made to appease Manchin, including tuition-free community college and an expanded five-year child tax credit. But some lawmakers have been clear they will keep fighting for all of their priorities until they see the final version of the bill.

"Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has been a leading advocate for paid leave, said in a statement Wednesday.

Other Democratic lawmakers have been making similar statements. Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan, for instance, told Insider during a Tuesday interview that he would keep fighting to get free community college in the bill "right up to the closing whistle."

Democrats were hoping to pass the Build Back Better bill - along with a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill - this week.

"We cannot recover holistically unless you provide the full range of supports that working families need," Narefsky of the National Women's Law Center said. "It is so short-sighted to think that because we are trimming down some abstract top-line number, that that is the end goal. Paid family and medical leave is a benefit that touches everyone."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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