GOP Rolls Out ‘New Parents Act’ to Provide Paid Family Leave

Republican measures face off against a Democratic bill

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS March 28, 2019
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, reintroduced a revamped New Parents Act on March 27, which would create a voluntary option for paid parental leave by allowing parents to use a portion of their Social Security after the birth or adoption of a child. A companion bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Dan Crenshaw, R-Tex. The legislation allows new parents paid leave that lasts one, two or three months in exchange for delaying or reducing future Social Security benefits. Parents also could choose to keep working full-time or part-time and use the Social Security funds to pay for childcare expenses.

The Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment (CRADLE) Act, introduced a few weeks earlier by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would let parents receive up to three months of paid leave if they postpone Social Security benefits and take leave from work.

On the other side of the aisle, 179 House Democrats have co-sponsored The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which provides partial wage replacement for all Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) qualifying events funded by a payroll tax on employers and employees. SHRM Online has selected the following articles to provide a deeper look into this topic.

Republicans' Rationale

"Our economic policies have left young, working families behind at a time when our marriage and childbirth rates are falling. It is time to realign our economic policies in support of American families," Rubio said.

"We have put forth a responsible paid family leave policy that allows new parents flexibility to spend more time with their children during one of life's most precious and exceptional moments. Importantly, this legislation gives new parents the option of paid parental leave without raising taxes or burdening small businesses," Wagner said.
(Office of Sen. Marco Rubio)

Public Supports Paid Leave, Disagree on Specifics

Americans largely support paid leave for new mothers and fathers, as well as for workers who need to care for a family member with a serious health condition or deal with their own medical issues, a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center found. But the public is sharply divided over whether the government should require employers to offer this benefit or let employers decide for themselves. 

A 2018 survey of 1,700 adults by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, found that 74 percent of respondents support a new federal government program to provide 12 weeks of paid leave to new parents or to people dealing with their own or a family member's serious medical condition. Support slips, however, after costs are considered. While 54 percent would be willing to pay $200 a year in new taxes to fund a 12-week federal paid-leave program, most oppose establishing a federal paid-leave program if it would cost them $450 a year or more.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Family and Medical Leave]

Republicans Getting Onboard

Crenshaw, one of the few Millennial Republicans in Congress, said he knows of young parents who simply cannot afford to take time off from work to be with their babies. "A strong family unit is the backbone of a society," Crenshaw said. "So the question always becomes how can we invest in family leave programs that recognize that value without creating yet another burdensome government program?" 

Rubio, of Florida, acknowledged that despite the growing support in GOP circles for paid family leave programs, it's still an idea that is not widely accepted within Republican ranks. Just five years ago, the issue was not part of Republican orthodoxy at all, he said.

(Houston Chronicle)

Seeking Bipartisanship

This is not the first time a paid family leave bill has been presented in Congress. The issue has been dear to Ivanka Trump, who has discussed the prospect with Republican leaders since her father took office. [If Republican proposals were] coupled with the Family Act and an expressed willingness to compromise, landmark bipartisan legislation could be on the horizon.
(New York Times)

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