Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday joined President Biden at the White House to mark the 30th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, and renewed the push for a national paid leave law.
“The United States is still one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave, as a result 94% of lowest wage workers — most women or workers of color — have no paid family leave at all,” Mr. Biden said. “I remain committed to changing that and bringing [the U.S.] in line with every single other major economy in the world by passing a national program of paid leave.”
Mr. Biden has championed paid sick leave for workers but has failed to win support from Congress. With Republicans holding a majority in the House it is unlikely that the president’s renewed push will gain any traction.
For Mr. Clinton, the event marked his first time at the White House since last May, when Mr. Biden hosted him for lunch.
The Family Medical Leave Act was the first piece of legislation Mr. Clinton signed into law after taking office in 1993. Mr. Clinton recalled the fight for the legislation to clear Congress, but said it made the country a better place to live.
“After all these years, I still have more people mention the Family Medical Leave Act than anything else I did,” Mr. Clinton said. “They tell you their story. That’s when you know that we have united the country.”
In 2021, Mr. Biden proposed expanding the Family Medical Leave Act to give workers up to 12 weeks of paid paternal, family and personal illness as part of his massive social spending plan. The proposal called for providing workers up to $4,000 a month, with two-thirds of average weekly wages covered by the government. That would cost more than $225 billion over a decade.
Republicans opposed the plan, saying it would send government spending soaring and increase taxes on Americans. Ultimately, it failed to make Mr. Biden‘s slimmed-down climate, health and tax law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
Some Republicans have warmed up to the idea, calling for a bipartisan solution. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican, had proposed expanding paid family medical leave in her state.
Currently, 11 states have some version of a paid leave program, but 44% of U.S. workers remain ineligible for FMLA, according to data from the National Partnership for Women & Families. Those workers are not eligible because they didn’t work enough hours, their employer was too small to qualify or they hadn’t worked long enough.
“How can we compete in a global economy if millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t join the workforce because child care and elder care cost more than their paycheck?” Mr. Biden said.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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