In September 2016, when then-Republican presidential primary candidate Donald J. Trump called for a national paid family leave plan, pundits called it “a striking departure from GOP orthodoxy.” Indeed it was.
But over the past 21 months, we have witnessed conservatives building a majority in support of this important policy.
In conversations with members of the GOP, there is burgeoning agreement on the intrinsically conservative nature of a national paid family leave plan.
Social conservatives underscore paid leave as a way to forge more tightly bonded families and protect infants and parents at their most vulnerable.
Fiscal hawks recognize the efficiency of increasing workforce attachment and minimizing government dependence.
And everyone shares the concern for our country’s plummeting fertility rates, now the lowest in history, and the effect that will have on our society and economy at large.
If executed responsibly, paid family leave is targeted government action with the right incentives – designed to increase the independence, health and dignity of our citizens.
Some 25 years ago, Congress passed, with bipartisan support, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. The legislation granted eligible American workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Now we have a historic opportunity to build on this progress.
Without debating the value and merits (of which there are many) of paid leave legislation supported by members of the Republican and Democratic parties, we must recognize their failure to gain majority consensus within or across party lines. Hence, our focus must turn to policy ideas that can secure congressional approval.
Included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is an important provision introduced by Senator Deb Fischer, R-Neb., to incentivize businesses nationwide to offer workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. This business credit of up to 25 percent is a foundational step in achieving a national plan.
But a tax credit alone will not suffice. Republicans are committed to developing a plan for working parents. In working with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., – chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy – we agreed on the urgent need for earnest bipartisan debate in order to address this issue.
Under Sen. Cassidy’s leadership and in coordination with the White House, his subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on paid family leave, giving this critical issue real bipartisan momentum for the first time.
No doubt, members of Congress will have diverse opinions about how to structure the policy and how to pay for it. But rather than allowing differences to prevent progress, our lawmakers are coming together to find the best solution.
Republicans are at the table, with sincere interest and rolled-up sleeves, looking for smart policy solutions that will empower American working families.
Paid family leave enables parents to balance the competing demands of work and family, pursue their careers, and build strong and thriving families. It is an investment in the future of our workers, our families, and our country.
As our lawmakers arrive to the negotiating table, let us applaud their efforts, encourage them to reach across the aisle, and create smart and lasting policy that does right by all.
This op-ed appeared in Fox News on July 11, 2018.