House Democrats revive paid leave program, ignore Munchkin’s concerns

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House Democrats revive paid leave program, ignore Munchkin’s concerns

WASHINGTON – California Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that she would include four weeks of federal paid family and medical leave in a $1.85 trillion household policy bill the House plans to consider early Thursday, Joe is seeking to put pressure on Senator Joe Manchin III of the West. Virginia dropped its protest.

The announcement, which came as Democrats scramble to iron out differences over the package, is unlikely to result in the enactment of the holiday program. Manchin, a key Democratic holdout, reiterated on Wednesday that he would not support it as part of broader social policy, climate and tax legislation. But the inclusion of paid leave promised a chance to give House Democrats a chance to register their support for a program that has bipartisan support.

It also guaranteed that the law would have to be amended by the Senate and approved a second time by the House before becoming law, breaking Pelosi’s promise to moderate lawmakers that she would not force them to vote on a plan. The equally divided Senate could not approve.

The speaker’s move was by far the most direct challenge to Mr Manchin, a centrist who has repeatedly expressed concern that the social safety net bill is overly liberal, and whose objections have prompted Democratic leaders to either dilute many of the provisions. or forced to remove.

In a letter to Democrats on Wednesday, Ms Pelosi acknowledged that she was “informed by a senator of opposition to some of the priorities contained in our bill” and stressed that the final package needed an agreement to become law. Will be

While many Democrats celebrated Pelosi’s decision, Manchin made it clear he would not back down from his protest. Because Republicans are unanimously opposing the entire package, Democrats must retain the support of some of their members in the House and all 50 senators who cooperate with their party to pass it.

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“I’m in for paid leave,” Manchin told reporters at the Capitol after Pelosi’s announcement. He said he didn’t believe Congress should “put in a bill that we should be able to do things in a bipartisan way to get things done.”

President Biden and congressional Democrats had hoped to include 12 weeks of paid leave in their package, but they increased it to four amid protests from Mr Manchin before eventually dropping it altogether. Mr Biden did not include it in a settlement framework he presented last week, and House Democrats excluded it from a draft bill introduced the same day.

It was included in the list of final changes to the House bill, which was released by the Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon. The program will start in 2024, covers all employed and self-employed workers and can be used for family care or personal illness.

Ms Pelosi’s decision came a day after five liberal and conservative Democrats reiterated in a letter to her that they did not want to vote for a package that lacked the guaranteed support of all 50 Senate Democrats or that adhered to strict budget rules. that could apply. to plan. The legislation is being considered under a process known as budget resolution, which protects it from a filibuster but tightly limits what is included.

Still, for supporters of the paid leave program – mainly women in both chambers – the decision to include it was welcomed, even though it was unlikely to become law.

“This victory is personal to so many American workers and their families, and it is personal to me,” said Representative Rosa Delaro, Democrat of Connecticut and longtime champion of the proposal. He had an emotional meeting with staff members who had helped provision and a tearful call with Christopher J. Dodd, who had served in the 1980s as a Democratic senator while serving as his chief of staff. fought for the programme. a colleague.

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Representative Richard E. Neill, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, vowed “to do whatever is necessary for President Biden to sign this provision into law and to give the American people the basic support they deserve.” They deserve.”

Top Democrats hoped it would fuel a lobbying campaign to change Mr Manchin’s mind. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Patty Murray of Washington have repeatedly cornered him in recent days for soliciting their support for the inclusion of paid leave in the bill.

The campaign also found an unexpected ally: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. The former United States actress, who married Prince Harry in 2018, emailed Murray and called on several senators on both sides to push for the provision, according to people familiar with her outreach.

“To my surprise, she called me on her personal line and introduced herself as the Duchess of Sussex,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. “He just weighed in that he thought paid leave was really important, and I told him there were so many different perspectives, and that people were working on it.”

Ms. Collins, who said she had also spoken to Mr. Manchin about a possible bipartisan solution, said that “I was delighted to speak with him, but I am more interested in whether the people of Maine will give me paid leave.” What are you talking about?”

Jonathan Weisman Contributed reporting.

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