Democrats could take a hit in the polls from female voters if paid family and medical leave is cut from President Joe Biden's spending bill, The Hill reported on Sunday.
Biden campaigned on 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave as part of his domestic agenda, but the plan was shortened to four weeks and then cut completely from the package a few days ago due to opposition from centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia), whose vote is needed to pass the bill.
According to the World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA, the United States is one of only six nations worldwide without any form of national paid leave.
Backers of paid maternity leave said cutting the item is a major setback, especially since women face more difficulty reentering the workforce in the aftermath of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"That is definitely disappointing," Rutgers University's Center for Women and Work executive director Debra Lancaster told NBC News. "I view it, and I think many people view it, as one of the foundational elements that's now gone."
Democratic strategist Christy Setzer added that "like universal pre-K, the genius of paid leave is that it's easy to understand and makes a tremendous difference in our lives," telling The Hill that "whether you get employer-paid leave or not, every woman with children remembers the anxiety around revealing their pregnancy at work, and the scramble to find childcare while your body recovers."
"I don’t know that voters will punish Dems for not getting this done - it’s hard to miss what you’ve never had - but man, what a missed opportunity. Just think if we’d gotten universal pre-K, paid leave and childcare over the line. Women would be lined up around the block to evangelize about it," she said.
National Partnership for Women & Families president Debra Ness said eliminating paid family leave from the bill could harm Democrats in the midterms, because "women, when they voted in the last election, were voting for people who they thought were going to fight for paid leave."
Paid leave is a "crucial component" of Biden’s agenda due to its popularity, according to a recent memo from Democratic polling company Lake Research Partners commissioned by the National Partnership. The memo citied a survey in which 87 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents and 43 percent of Republicans support the idea.
Sources told The Hill that several Democratic senators, including Patty Murray, continue to press for the issue to be included in the legislation.
The Washington state senator called it "downright shameful that America is the only developed nation where working people are not guaranteed paid leave if they have a child, get seriously ill, or need to take care of a loved one," according to the Hill.
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