Sen. Joe Manchin III, a key swing vote for the White House’s legislative agenda, reasserted his opposition on Wednesday to including paid family leave in President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social welfare bill.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said his position on the topic was unchanged, despite intense lobbying from far-left Senate colleagues to support federally subsidized time off from work for family health care issues.
“I’ve been very clear where I stand,” he said.
Workers would get paid leave for a broad range of “caregiver” duties including for the birth of a child or an adoption, to care for a sick loved one, or for one’s own health such as time in drug rehab.
Mr. Biden initially proposed a 12-week paid-leave guarantee, but that provision was scrapped after opposition from Mr. Manchin.
Since the social welfare bill will need to pass via a budget reconciliation, which allows some spending measures to avert the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority, Mr. Biden opted to avoid the disunity.
But many Democrats have refused to accept the proposal is dead.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, has been courting Mr. Manchin to drop his opposition. In private meetings, Mrs. Gillibrand has stressed alternative paid leave proposals and various ways to ensure they are fully funded.
The arguments have failed to sway Mr. Manchin, who said he is increasingly worried that new entitlement programs and federal spending will drive up inflation.
“I support it. … I just don’t support [unfunded] leave,” Mr. Manchin said recently. “That means getting more debt and basically putting more social programs that we can’t pay for, that we’re having problems [with] now. I want to support paid leave. I want to do it in a bipartisan way.”
Unlike Mrs. Gillibrand, House Democrats are also maneuvering to include paid leave in the social welfare bill. They’re opting to ignore Mr. Manchin altogether, though.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has included a four-week paid-leave guarantee in her version of the bill. The program would apply to workers with at least $2,000 in wages in the two years before receiving benefits.
Beneficiaries would also have to prove that they worked in some capacity immediately before taking paid leave. If able to meet the work and earnings threshold, individuals would be eligible to receive up to 90% of their previous income during the four-week leave period.
“We do this responsibly, fully paying for the means-tested program,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Massachusetts Democrats.
Despite the move by House Democrats, most expect paid leave to be stripped from the legislation by Mr. Manchin in the Senate.