- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Donald Trump tested his more liberal policy side on Tuesday, proposing federal rules requiring companies to give six weeks of paid maternity leave and vowing to expand a low-income tax credit to pay for child care.

Looking to make inroads with women and suburban voters, Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka traveled to a township outside Philadelphia to roll out a child care plan that Mr. Trump said would make a “lot of moms very happy.”

“This solution will receive strong bipartisan support,” Mr. Trump said of his paid-leave plan, promising the cost will be offset by eliminating fraud in unemployment insurance.

“We can provide six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit,” Mr. Trump said.

The Trump plan calls for parents — whether in the workplace or at home — to be able deduct the average cost of child care expenses in their state. The deduction, though, wouldn’t be available to individuals earning more than $250,000 or couples earning over $500,000.

Mr. Trump called for “dependent care savings accounts” that would allow for up to $2,000 in tax-free contributions each year and offer a $500 federal match on the first $1,000 invested. Families could use the account to help pay for child care, enroll children in after-school enrichment programs or assist aging family members.

He also endorsed “child care spending rebates” worth up to $1,200 per family through the earned income tax credit, which some conservatives have criticized.

“Very little policy work has been done in this area, and my opponent has no child care plan,” he said.

Before the event, the Clinton camp panned Mr. Trump’s proposal, saying wealthy Americans would benefit the most, and describing his maternity leave plan as “half-baked.”

“It shows something about Donald Trump’s worldview that in 2016 he still thinks caretaking is solely a woman’s job, which is why his proposal only calls for maternity leave,” said Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser for Hillary for America.

“Time and again, research has shown that only providing paid leave to new mothers, but not to new fathers, makes women less likely to return to the workplace, it discourages employers from hiring and promoting women, and it increases the gender pay gap,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton has proposed 12 weeks of guaranteed parental leave for workers, including fathers, and an expansion of the benefit to workers recovering from injury or illness. To cover the costs, Mrs. Clinton wants to make “the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Mr. Trump was joined at the event by five Republican congresswomen.

Polls show Mrs. Clinton easily outperforming Mr. Trump among women and Mr. Trump besting her by wide margins among men.

Mr. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, made the rounds on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and assured House and Senate Republicans that the New York billionaire is on their side.

At a press briefing with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, Mr. Pence said he is inspired by how much “consistency there is between Donald Trump’s vision to rebuild our military, to revive the American economy, uphold the rule of law and the agenda that House Republicans have put forward in the better way.”

“Look, you’re going to have in a majority party, you’re going to occasionally have differences of opinion, but our goals are identical,” he said.

History, though, suggests Mr. Trump’s paid maternity leave proposal could be a tough sell to his fellow Republicans.

“It lies in the crossroads of two big conservative issues,” said Kay Hymowitz, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank. “One is the strength of the family, and the other is the place of federal government in supporting that.”

Mrs. Hymowitz said there has been a renewed focus on maternity leave in recent years because of women in the workforce and more families relying on dual incomes to make ends meet.

Instead of a federal fix, she said, conservatives would be better off encouraging states to develop their own approaches. She pointed to California, where an employee payroll tax covers the cost of the benefit.

But Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a Christian group, applauded the Trump plan, saying it would “give parents the additional flexibility to decide what’s best for their own family.”

The National Federation of Independent Business, meanwhile, said, “We’re generally concerned that expanding the program to include a new benefit would require higher payroll taxes on employers.”

“We would like to know more about how the new benefit could be financed without raising taxes on small businesses,” said Jack Mozloom, a spokesman for the business federation.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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