More than 12 Senate Democrats have urged President Joe Biden to preserve a national paid family-leave program in as part of his comprehensive social services and climate change package.
Wednesday's letter to Biden by Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, and Nancy Pelosi from the progressive and moderate wings of the party stated that the proposal must include a program providing paid family leaves to all workers as negotiators try to reduce its $3.5 trillion price tag.
Senators stated that the COVID-19 Pandemic which notably sidelined working mothers who lost their child care options and school , was a stark reminder of the need for the program.
The senators wrote that the pandemic had exposed an urgent emergency, on top of an ongoing and chronic caregiving crisis for workers and employers. "We cannot escape this crisis and continue to be the only country in the world without any form of paid national leave."
New York Sen. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She told The Associated Press she believes there is broad support for a paid-leave program, but that she wants to ensure it's not put on the cutting block while Democrats on Capitol Hill work to reduce the legislation's spending to around $2 trillion.
Gillibrand stated that she is open to negotiations regarding the terms of the paid-leave program. However, Gillibrand might find it difficult to vote in favor of the final package if it isn't.
Gillibrand stated that it would be difficult because it is a bill.
Biden cannot afford to lose any Democratic votes at the 50-50 split Senate. Republicans are completely opposed to the president's plans.
Gillibrand stated that the proposal must be gender neutral and offer all workers paid time off for caring for sick or dying relatives or for the birth of a baby. A plan that offers 12 weeks of paid time, or as many weeks can be negotiated, is being proposed by the coalition of senators. It will not need to be passed through Congress again.
The latest version of the proposal would have provided the greatest benefit to those with low and moderate incomes. It offered $5,000 in paid leave for workers, as well as a 12 week full wage to workers earning $60,000 annually or less.
Biden, along with a small group progressive House Democrats, told lawmakers Tuesday that he would like to include money for four weeks of family leave annually, instead of his 12-week proposal.
Two people who were present at the session described Biden's discussion on the revised plan. They would not reveal their identities because they aren't allowed to. One person stated that there would be income limits for families who would be eligible for the program.
Gillibrand stated that senators are open to compromise on the numbers, and will continue the program's development in the future. She also stated that she is open to meeting with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin is a key defender of Biden's plan and has sought to limit its scope.