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GOP lawmaker says giving fathers paid leave would ‘ruin’ America

The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world with no paid family leave plan.

By Oliver Willis - October 14, 2021
Rep. James Comer (R-KY)

Kentucky Rep. James Comer (R) claimed in a Fox News Radio interview Tuesday that paid family leave, specifically for “men,” was among a host of policies “ruining” America.

Comer’s comment came during a segment on “Fox Across America” with host Jimmy Failla.

“I think that we’re ruining a generation of Americans,” Comer said. “We’re making them think that they’re entitled to things from reparation payments, to paid leave to stay at home if you have a headache or if you’re stressed out or whatever.”

Comer also claimed that there was a Democratic proposal in Congress “to extend maternity leave to men, even if they don’t have children.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what proposal the congressman was referring to specifically.

Comer may have been vaguely referencing the Healthy Families Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and referred to the House and Senate committees on Education and Labor, which would mandate up to seven days of paid sick leave for any employee of a business with 15 or more workers. Businesses with fewer than 15 employees would be required to give workers seven days of unpaid leave for health or family-related reasons.

The current federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides workers with up to 12 weeks unpaid leave, applies to parents who need time off to give birth to or care for a child, or for their own health issues relating to childbirth. The rule also applies to parents, including fathers, who need unpaid time off to care for a child or to care for a spouse who is incapacitated due to childbirth.

There is currently has no national paid leave requirement. Only a handful of states (nine) provide that sort of benefit officially.

The United States is one of the only countries in the world that does not guarantee paid time off for parents, in contrast with places like the U.K., Canada, Germany, and Japan, which offer their citizens at least 10 paid weeks off, or more.

In April, the Biden administration proposed paid leave as part of the American Families Plan. In a fact sheet, the administration said the proposal would “bring America in line with competitor nations that offer paid leave programs.”

The provision would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave that families could use for “parental, family and personal illness/safe leave.” Phased in over gradually over a 10 year period, it would allow workers to earn up to $4,000 a month, replacing anywhere between 66% and 80% of their income, depending on their earnings.

The proposal is part of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, which is currently being debated in Congress.

Implementing a federal paid leave standard is a popular idea across the political spectrum. An October 2018 poll from the National Partnership for Women & Families found that 84% of respondents supported paid family leave, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Surveys conducted in April and May, by YouGov and the advocacy group Paid Leave for All Action respectively, yielded similar results. The director of the latter group, Dawn Huckelbridge, told Vox in June that the pandemic had “completely changed the game.”

“What had been a hole in our infrastructure, what had been a crisis in the making for years and generations, suddenly now it is out on this really magnified scale,” Huckelbridge said. “People realize how critical this is to our resilience, to our economic growth, to weathering crises, whether global pandemics or cancer diagnoses.”

Studies have shown that families collectively lose $22.5 billion in wages every year without paid family and medical leave. On average, families individually lose over $9,5000 in wages after 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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