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Bipartisan Senate Group Tackles National Paid Leave Policy

May 23, 2019, 12:24 PM

The Senate Finance Committee hopes to develop a bipartisan national paid leave policy with a newly formed working group led by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

The group, which includes committee members Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), will meet regularly, create a list of main issues to tackle, and examine current legislation, the lawmakers announced May 22.

The demand for a federal parental leave law has reached a fever pitch, even becoming a 2020 presidential campaign issue. Democratic candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) on May 22 announced a wide-ranging set of policies focused on children and families, including paid leave, if she wins the presidency in 2020.

A growing group of U.S. companies have established their own paid leave benefits, even though it’s not a federal requirement. Health food chain Sweetgreen, for example, announced May 22 a five-month-long paid leave benefit for its workers.

Democrats and Republicans have agreed that there’s a need for a federal leave policy, but they differ on how best to get there. Democrats want a national paid leave plan where the benefits are paid for now, in a collective manner, while many Republicans prefer a method where benefits are paid for later, and earned at an individual level. Both sides have expressed concern over the ultimate cost of the opposing party’s plan, and dueling analyses paint different pictures of the price of each party’s programs.

The Finance Committee will consider existing paid family leave plans and the subsequent gaps in coverage, the types of benefits and eligibility, and potential funding mechanisms, among other issues.

“Most parents work outside the home and childcare costs are a burden for many families. The first months of life are a critical period for newborns. We should take a look at any policy that might help in their development,” committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said. “It’s been several decades since we’ve updated federal family leave laws. I look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties to explore ideas.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cynthia Harasty at; Terence Hyland at