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Is federal paid parental leave in the offing?

President Donald Trump is proposing to spend $19 billion on paid parental leave over the next decade. While opposition by both sides of the aisle would suggest alliances in a time of great division, the disagreements are taking two forms. Republicans think that it goes too far while Democrats believe that it doesn't go far enough.

The budget request, first promoted by first daughter Ivanka Trump, would require states to provide parents and adoptive parents six weeks of paid parental leave as part of their unemployment benefits.

The breakdown of the request includes:

  • $13 billion paid for by higher payroll taxes
  • $2.2 billion generated by reductions in unemployment fraud
  • $4 billion coming from efforts to get unemployed people collecting workers' compensation back to work

States would be afforded "broad latitude to design and finance the program." However, if their respective unemployment trusts cannot pay for benefits, states would be required to raise payroll taxes on their own. If they fail to implement an increase, the government would do it for them.

Republicans are expressing a variety of objections. While considering it a "worthy endeavor," Sen. Lindsay Graham is concerned about the economic impact of putting more federal mandates on employers and the potential for jobs being lost. Some in the party are taking a "wait and see" approach while others are described as angry and upset.

Democrats such as Sen. Bernie Sanders believes that it is a "good start," but lacking in the necessary funding. His colleague, Patty Murray, a U.S. senator from Washington who championed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims that the president's proposal is "window dressing" and not a real solution. Workers still must choose between providing care or earning a paycheck.

The current FMLA mandates that employers provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Many private employers currently provide their own paid leave programs of varying lengths.

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