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FAMILY MATTERS

Paid parental leave is reinserted in the Biden bill just days after it was stripped out

A child sitting below their parents' legs.
Reuters/Brendan McDermid
Seeking balance.
  • Cassie Werber
By Cassie Werber

Reporter

Published

US Democrats will make another attempt to pass a bill mandating four weeks of paid parental leave, according to House speaker Nancy Pelosi, days after the measure was removed from president Joe Biden’s spending plan.

When Biden unveiled his latest package of reforms on Oct. 28, advocates of paid parental leave were disappointed to find that the original proposal of 12 weeks paid leave, which already had faced criticism and been whittled down to four weeks, had not made the cut.

The reinsertion of the measure is a sign that the more liberal wing of the party isn’t going to give up on the possibility that the US might finally instate some form of paid leave. It is the only rich country which doesn’t mandate any paid parental leave at all.

The challenge of passing paid parental leave

Why is it so hard for the US to pass legislation that dozens of other countries passed long ago?

First, polarization in US politics means that the Republican party has already decided categorically to oppose the package when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

But not all senators from the Democratic party categorically support the package, either. That puts the Democrats in the awkward position of trying to convince even senators from their own party to follow them.

Some have criticized the bill overall on the grounds that it’s too costly: The most recent version of the education, healthcare, and climate package already adds up to around $1.85 trillion.

What does Joe Manchin think about paid parental leave?

Joe Manchin, a senator from West Virginia, was holding out against some aspects of the bill just before it was announced without the parental leave element, while Krysten Sinema, a senator from Arizona—who has supported parental leave in the past—also needed convincing this time around.

Despite its reinstatement, the road ahead for paid leave, even a mere four weeks, looks rocky: Manchin told reporters at The Wall Street Journal, following Pelosi’s statement today, that he had not changed his mind.

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