Here's What Legislators in Washington Say About the the Build Back Better Plan and Keeping Paid Leave in the Bill

Emily Tisch Sussman, the senior advisor to Paid Leave U.S. and's political correspondent, spoke with four House Democrats about what they're doing to get paid leave in the Biden's Build Back Better Plan.

An image of people on Capitol Hill protesting for paid leave.
Photo: Getty Images.

This week, legislators in both the House and the Senate are negotiating the final aspects of the reconciliation bill. After huge cuts to President Joe Biden's original $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, many parents are left wondering what is left in the package that will benefit them.

On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House version of the reconciliation bill will still include paid leave, but just at four weeks instead of the original 12. Currently, the United States is the only industrialized country in the entire world without a federal paid leave program. I spoke with Senator Corey Booker who said, "We are way out of step with the rest of the earth and other industrialized countries."

Here's what else Senators and members of Congress told me outside of the Capitol this week about what in the bill will help parents and how they are fighting to keep paid leave in the bill.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

During her bid for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2019, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand centered her campaign on family, leading to Biden endorsing her plan and eventually including it in his original American Families Plan this past spring.

When I spoke with her during a Moms Run The World segment, she talked about the cradle to grave investments her policies would make in families—from universal pre-K, to child care, to extending the child tax credit, to Medicare expansion.

Senator Gillibrand went on to say that she believes that 12 weeks of paid leave is still on the negotiating table hinting that "this is a moment to fix the infrastructure of our economy and half measures don't get us there."

Congresswoman Gwen Moore

Despite the cuts to the larger Build Back Better plan, there are still things in the bill that will benefit families. Congresswoman Gwen Moore from Wisconsin broke each part down while I spoke with her at the Paid Leave event outside of the Capitol.

She noted that the Child Tax Credit will be expanded, providing families with kids under the age of 6 with $300 a month and those with kids over age 6 with $250 a month.

Congresswoman Moore also noted that the bill provides a historic investment in child care. "This bill not only provides for capital improvements for child care centers, but creates a program where women will not have to pay more than 7 percent of their income toward child care, she noted. "This is revolutionary. Over 50 percent of our workforce is women, and we need women to participate in our workforce."

Another key element of the new Build Back Better framework is the largest expansion of affordable health care in over a decade. Congresswoman Moore connected the needs for each of the programs asking, "Why should I get up and go work at a job that has no health care, no family leave, and you're not going to raise the minimum wage?"

Congressman Richard Neal

Congressman Richard Neal from Massachusetts is the chair of the Ways and Means committee that passed a comprehensive 12 week paid leave policy back in September. He noted that businesses collectively advocated for paid leave as part of the Build Back Better agenda.

"It was well met across the country," said Congressman Neal. "When you have some of the biggest businesses advocating for paid family leave, that is stunning. It increases productivity, a happier workforce, and it addresses the issue of labor participation rates for women who had to leave work because they had to choose between nonexistent child care or keeping their jobs."

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray of Washington state introduced the FAMILY Act alongside Senator Gillibrand and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro that structured many of the original policies in the American Families Plan. She has been a staunch advocate for parents throughout the reconciliation process.

Doubling down on her comments when paid leave was first cut from the package, she referenced "one man in the Senate," referring to Senator Joe Manchin who has signaled he will not support the bill as written.

Undeterred, she was clear during my conversation with her that she was not giving up calling on people to speak up and put the pressure on to get paid leave passed.

"Tell your story, speak up, call your member of Congress, and do not give up. I'm not going to give up," Murray said.

What You Can Do

Until the ink is dry on Biden's Build Back Better plan, you can get involved. If you or someone you know has a personal experience with the need for paid leave, child care, or other aspects of the plan, share your story using the hashtags #SavePaidLeave and #PaidLeave.

You can also call your legislators at (202) 224-3121 to urge them to pass a federal paid leave policy that will help millions of Americans.

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