Spotlight Exclusives

Trump Calls for Paid Leave in SOTU Address

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

The main news in the poverty and opportunity policy space from President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was his brief mention of his support for a paid medical leave policy.

“I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave — so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child,” Trump said.

The citation brought a shout of “Yes!” from Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), who helped author legislation with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and White House adviser Ivanka Trump last fall allowing new parents to pay for family leave using early withdrawal of their Social Security funds.

Wagner told reporters she has spoken “extensively” about the bill with the White House and that she hopes to restart talks in the new Congress soon.

“We’re looking forward to resurrecting some of those discussions now,” Wagner said. “I was so pleased to hear the President give a strong shout out for it tonight. I was the first on my feet to say, ‘Yes!’ I’m a big supporter and advocate in this arena.”

Rubio tweeted that he was “excited that another one of my initiatives, paid family leave, was highlighted as a priority for this Congress.”

Democrats credited Trump for including the issue in his speech but continued to express a preference for legislation like the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, introduced in the previous Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). The legislation would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers.

DeLauro and Gillibrand plan to reintroduce the bill next week.

“We need a comprehensive paid family & medical leave standard like the FAMILY Act,” the Center for Law and Social Policy tweeted. “All workers deserve the right to take paid leave for serious caregiving, medical needs & bonding w/ a new child.”

“Eighty-four percent of U.S. voters want comprehensive paid leave for all FMLA reasons, for all workers, no matter their state, their job, whether they’re an employee or an independent contractor,” tweeted Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “FAMILY Act fits the bill.”

Trump’s speech came on the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and his inclusion of paid leave fanned embers of hope on all sides of the debate that a congressional compromise might be within reach.

“Trump had parental leave in his budget last year, too, but neither the House or Senate moved a bill forward,” tweeted Katie Bethell, founder and executive director of PL+US. “Will the new Dem house majority move forward comprehensive paid leave like the FAMILY Act? Will the Republican-controlled Senate? Let’s move past the posturing.”

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