House passes bill including paid family leave. Advocates call it a ‘once-in-a-generation change’

Personal finance

Families, parents and caregivers call on Congress to include paid family and medical leave in the Build Back Better legislative package during an all-day Nov. 2, 2021 vigil in Washington, D.C.
Paul Morigi | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

It’s been a contentious battle to get paid family leave included in social spending legislation being debated on Capitol Hill.

To that end, Democrats notched a win on Friday when the House of Representatives passed a version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation that includes the hotly contested proposal.

The U.S. is one of the few developed countries without a paid family leave policy.

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Democratic lawmakers have sought to change that. Their proposal calls for four weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers, whether they are employees or independent contractors.

It remains to be seen whether the measure will get Senate approval. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he does not support the paid leave initiative due to cost concerns.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers who support the initiative issued celebratory statements.

“We fought hard to keep key provisions like paid family and medical leave in the legislation because we cannot build back better until we recognize the needs of workers outside of the workplace,” Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

Advocates were also quick to applaud the House passage of the proposal.

“With the Build Back Better Act that just passed the House, the U.S. Senate has a historic opportunity to deliver transformative, once-in-a-generation change, including the passage of our country’s first national paid family and medical leave program, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure they do,” Molly Day, executive director at Paid Leave for the U.S., said in a statement.

Republicans say a federal paid leave plan would be expensive and negatively affect the Social Security Administration, which would be tasked with administering the program under the measure.

Instead, they are pushing for expanded paid leave that would be provided by employers through the Protecting Worker Paychecks and Family Choice Act. Their plan includes incentives for small businesses to offer those benefits.

Both sides have used polling to support their position. House Ways and Means Republicans have touted a recent poll that found 49% of voters would support the GOP plan. Democrats have cited other surveys that show strong support for a federal proposal, including a separate poll that found that 73% of U.S. adults would support it.

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