Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) unveiled Congress’ first bipartisan paid family leave proposal on Tuesday, which could serve as the basis through which Congress passes a federal solution to help young parents start new families.
Cassidy charged “there is no bigger kitchen table issue” than parents taking care of their newborn child.
The senators released the Cassidy-Sinema plan Tuesday, which would give new parents the option to bring forward their Child Tax Credit (CTC) to receive a $5,000 paid leave benefit. The Cassidy-Sinema plan would give new parents the flexibility to cover costs after having or adopting a child.
Sen. Cassidy said in a statement Tuesday:
There is no bigger kitchen table issue than a mother and a father being able to care for their newborn. In many cases, the first year of life is the most expensive for a family. This legislation addresses this, focuses resources and eases financial strain to provide a longer bonding period for the family. As a doctor, I know that if a mom and dad are able to have a deeper connection with their child at birth, it’s better for the health of the baby and the mother. We don’t raise taxes, affect Social Security, and there are no mandates on either the family or the employer. This is a common ground solution that can pass Congress and become law.
Paid family leave serves as a rising issue for Republicans. President Donald Trump announced during his State of the Union address he will work to implement a paid family leave plan. White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump continues to work with Republicans across the spectrum on the issue.
Paid family leave offers an opportunity for the United States to lead on paid family leave as America is the only Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nation without access to paid parental leave and suffers the highest infant mortality rate compared to other OECD countries. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) tapped Cassidy, one of the Senate’s foremost experts on health care, to co-chair a bipartisan working group on the issue. Cassidy announced back in April he would develop a bipartisan paid family leave plan that could pass through Congress and that President Trump could support.
Too many parents are forced to choose between losing time with a new child or taking on debt to make up for lost wages,” said Sen. Sinema. “Arizona’s working families deserve better. Our bipartisan bill does not raise taxes or harm Social Security, and represents an important first step, offering parents a new option to finance time off of work or help pay for childcare.”
While drafting his proposal, Sen. Cassidy told Breitbart News in April that he wants to ensure that his bipartisan paid family leave proposal would not raise taxes or impose any additional burdens. For instance, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) proposal would pay for a paid family leave proposal by increasing payroll taxes, which the Louisiana senator has slammed as hurting low-income Americans and increasing businesses’ cost of hiring.
In contrast, the Cassidy-Sinema plan would not raise taxes on Americans or businesses by using an already implemented tax credit system. The Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per year, and the Cassidy-Sinema plan would allow new parents to bring their CTCs forward and receive $5,000 immediately and then receive $1,500 for the following ten years. New parents could then use the $5,000 to replace income when taking leave from work, or pay for childcare if parents decide to stay at work, giving the parents flexibility for how they wish to use their tax credits.
For lower-income families that do not qualify for the full, refundable CTC, they would be able to similarly bring forward their CTC benefit to receive the equivalent of 12 weeks wage replacement and then obtain their adjusted CTC benefit over the next 15 years.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which passed in the 1990s, guarantees eligible parents 12 weeks of unpaid leave without the threat of losing one’s job. However, many parents remain unable to access the benefits of the FMLA because they do not qualify or cannot go without pay for the allotted time. The Cassidy-Sinema plan would offer Americans a chance to take care of their child using the CTC paid leave benefit.
In 2016, half of Americans took leave used savings set aside for something else to cover lost wages or salary due to childcare expenses, 37 percent took on debt, and 41 percent cut their leave time short due to having a kid. The Cassidy-Sinema plan may not cover every new parent’s expenses but could help offer Americans a life raft as they hope to start a family.
Creating a national paid family leave program could also reduce Americans’ dependence on welfare programs.
A Rutgers University study found women who take paid family leave remain 39 percent less likely to receive public assistance and 40 percent less likely to obtain food stamps in the year following her child’s birth when compared to those who do not take any paid leave.
Further, enacting a paid family leave proposal could serve as a boon to businesses that cannot offer their employees a paid family leave proposal.
Sen. Cassidy’s leadership on paid family leave serves as another instance of Republicans embracing populist issues that would help the average American family. By working and crafting the legislation with Sen. Sinema, Cassidy can ensure that the legislation could pass through the Senate while not burdening Americans with new taxes or businesses with new mandates.
Sen. Cassidy told Breitbart News during a press conference in June that President Trump has been the “ultimate force” behind Republicans embracing “kitchen-table” issues such as drug pricing, the opioid epidemic, and paid family leave.
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.