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White House aide Ivanka Trump has been meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in recent days as part of the administration’s effort to build support for a national program offering paid leave for working families.
“We are working with members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle and thought leaders across this country and many of which are in this room today to build a strong coalition of support for a national paid family leave program,” Trump said during a recent White House event. “This is essential and long overdue. We must recognize the change in composition of our American workforce in which all parents work in the vast majority of American homes.”
A White House official said Ivanka Trump is actively building momentum to make the benefit available to more workers. That includes meeting recently with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
President Donald Trump’s daughter has focused on paid leave and other working-family issues since the 2016 campaign, but the details of a national program are not fully known. Bloomberg Law’s requests for comment from Ivanka Trump were unsuccessful as of Jan. 22. The administration last year proposed taking funds from other government programs to establish a paid family leave program as part of its budget request.
The recently signed tax reform bill includes a provision giving employers a tax credit of up to 25 percent if they offer workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. There are also other pieces of legislation introduced this Congress intended to offer some forms of paid leave.
“While we are pleasantly surprised by the progress we are making in generating conversation around the issue, we know how hard it is going to be and that for all the talk on the issue, nobody has been able to get it done before,” the White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We are committed to it and the priority now is to continue to build a coalition.”
President Trump in December signed the GOP tax reform bill, which included tax incentives for companies that provide paid family and medical leave. The provision mirrored Sen. Deb Fischer’s (R-Neb.) stand-alone legislation (S. 344) that had been stalled.
Fischer and other Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) met with Ivanka Trump in June as part of what they then described as discussions about paid leave.
This came months after President Trump in his address to Congress urged lawmakers to work to “ensure new parents have paid family leave.” The administration then followed in May with a paid family leave concept as part of its proposed budget request.
That proposal called for a federal- and state-paid parental leave program that would provide six weeks of paid leave for new parents. The plan would tap into unemployment insurance program to fund $20 billion for the benefit for 10 years, the White House said at the time.
As for the new tax reform law, Ivanka Trump tweeted applause for the included paid leave provision.
She’s also been on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, meeting with some high-ranking lawmakers like Alexander.
The Tennessee Republican tweeted a photo of the meeting, adding it focused on how to “help working families.” A spokesman for Alexander did not immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment Jan. 19.
That meeting came days after Ivanka Trump Jan. 10 met with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy.
The conversation focused on paid family leave policy, Cassidy, also a HELP Committee member, told Bloomberg Law. His office also emailed a news release detailing the meeting included discussions about “the importance of providing families with flexible work arrangements that allow workers to care for a sick family member or take maternity or paternity leave.”
It was not immediately known Jan. 19 if Ivanka Trump would be meeting with Democrats on the HELP Committee. A spokeswoman for ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told Bloomberg Law that the two have not recently met to discuss the issue.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee panel Dec. 6 held a hearing on paid leave proposals, including Rep. Mimi Walters’ (R-Calif.) Workflex in the 21st Century Act (H.R. 4219).
That measure would exempt employers from state and local paid leave obligations if they give workers a certain amount of general paid leave that can be used for medical, family, bereavement, vacation, and other reasons.
The measure, which has four Republican co-sponsors, is backed by employer advocates like the Society for Human Resource Management and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Other legislation yet to see a vote includes the Democrats’ FAMILY Act (S.337, H.R. 947), which would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, funded by contributions from employers and workers.
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