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Activists delivered to Congress over 4.5 million signatures in support of including home care, paid leave, and child care in the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package on October 7, 2021. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Unbendable Media)

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett

Progressive U.S. lawmakers and advocates for working families were outraged Wednesday by reporting that congressional leaders are planning to fully cut paid leave from Democrats' Build Back Better package due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin.

"Congress cannot accept a final Build Back Better deal without paid leave."

Sources on Capitol Hill told reporters at several news outlets—including CNN, Politico, The Hill, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal—that Democrats are, as the Times put it, "likely to abandon their plans to create a new federal paid family and medical leave program" because of Manchin (D-W.Va.).

The newspaper noted that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who "personally reached out" to the right-wing West Virginian in an attempt to sell him on a compromise, promised to keep pushing for it.

"Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan," Gillibrand said in a statement Wednesday afternoon—a vow echoed by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Twitter.

Politico's Eleanor Mueller also reported that Democrats plan to slash the program, initially proposed as 12 weeks but recently reduced to just four weeks, "from their mammoth social spending package Wednesday after attempts to drastically pare it down were deemed insufficient."

"Already, advocates are fuming over what they see as an unwillingness by the White House to fight hard enough for a policy it won [the 2020] election on," Mueller wrote in a series of tweets, "particularly in the face of a public health crisis and an economic crisis that disproportionately impacted women and low-wage workers."

"Groups launched an eleventh-hour push to keep paid leave in the package, sending mass emails and flooding social media," she added. "The hashtag #SavePaidLeave appeared in posts by Paid Leave for All, National Women's Law Center, and other groups along with advocates like Melinda Gates."

The advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted: "How can we rebuild without paid leave to keep families working and healthy? We need paid leave."

"It's outrageous and shameful that in the midst of a global pandemic that's forced more than two million women out of the workforce, Congress and the White House have put forward a preliminary legislative deal without paid family and medical leave," Molly Day, executive director of Paid Leave for the U.S. (PL+US), said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Day declared that "paid leave is an essential tool for building back better—for returning millions of women to the workforce after a historic she-cession, addressing the widening racial wealth gap and other socio-economic income disparities, and creating the business resiliency our national economy needs in 2021."

"Paid leave is about ensuring that no working person has to choose between their family and their paycheck, and the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors," she said. "Congress cannot accept a final Build Back Better deal without paid leave."

Women's March pointed to a Times report from Monday highlighting that the United States is one of just six nations with no national paid leave and it would still be an outlier with the proposed four-week plan, given what other countries offer.

Some critics of the cut took aim at Manchin, who suggested to CNN Wednesday evening that paid family and medical leave doesn't belong in the package, saying Democrats should be "examining all this stuff," but the reconciliation bill "is not the place to do it."

According to the Times, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said that "we are not going to let one man tell millions of women in this country that they can't have paid leave."

Because Democrats are trying to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process, they need support from the party's entire Senate caucus—including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—to pass the package, which has been cut down to roughly $2 trillion in spending over a decade.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday afternoon that President Joe Biden wants a deal on the package—which is holding up a bipartisan infrastructure bill and is supposed to deliver on several of his campaign promises—"before he leaves for Europe" on Thursday.


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