Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to require mandatory paid family leave for new parents, while several Republican lawmakers say they want to press forward on legislation to fight child poverty and addiction.
On the same day as Republicans gathered in their party’s capital to celebrate their ability to block government funding, several members of the upper chamber weighed in on plans to support both issues this fall.
Members of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, an influential group of centrist Democrats, said they expected a vote on paid family leave legislation in the next two weeks.
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A group of Republican senators, several of whom have not had children, have announced plans to hold hearings on policies aimed at reducing child poverty and preventing opioid abuse.
“Child poverty is the child poverty that continues to prevent us from achieving the future we want,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has recently said he is open to supporting paid family leave.
And on Saturday, Republican Senate candidates Kim Tillman and Brett Gardner said they will introduce a bill to require 10 weeks of paid family leave, which was first approved by a congressional commission in 2016.
Democrats will wait for the midterms to gain an edge, rather than dive into a broad agenda, they said. But advocating for both issues ahead of the elections sets up a potential tough debate ahead of 2020, when Democrats hope to capture the Senate majority.
“Obviously our goal is to try to have paid family leave but we’re not going to legislate this year,” said Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who chairs the Problem Solvers caucus. “The majority is too focused on securing the votes that allow them to get to 60 votes, that gives them the ability to stop a filibuster and get to 60 votes.”
Bennet told the Guardian that Republicans have not yet reached out to his caucus about funding alternative proposals to paid family leave.
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Democrats see paid family leave as a huge opportunity to tack voters toward their side: polling suggests that only a small fraction of Democratic voters support mandated leave. Last week, the daily tracking poll from the Washington Post and ABC News showed that 59% of Americans favor mandatory paid leave.
The White House and a representative for McConnell did not respond to requests for comment.