GOP voters want paid family leave even as House Republicans work to block it

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Three-quarters of Republican voters in Senate battleground states want paid leave and want it now.

Not a single Republican in Congress has backed President Joe Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which includes a paid family and medical leave program. But a new poll shows the vast majority of GOP voters in key battleground states want such a paid leave system.

According to a survey released Monday by Paid Leave for All Action (a pro-family and medical leave coalition) and Global Strategy Group, 84% of voters in seven Senate battleground states back "ensuring paid leave, including family, parental, and medical leave for all U.S. workers." 77% said such a paid leave system "cannot wait" and 76% support including it as "a part of a jobs and infrastructure plan."

The poll found 74% of Republicans and 74% of Donald Trump supporters in those states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — want to see paid family, parental, and medical leave.

"This is a priority for voters, a policy that working families need for recovery and our long-term economic growth, and an investment that cannot wait," Paid Leave for All Director Dawn Huckelbridge said in a press release. "We have a historic opportunity to pass paid leave as a jobs and infrastructure priority, and a clear mandate to act.”

Biden has proposed "direct support to workers and families by creating a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that will bring America in line with competitor nations that offer paid leave programs." His American Families Plan would also invest billions in affordable child and health care, as well as provide free community college.

Republicans have strongly opposed the legislation in general and the paid family leave provisions in particular.

The GOP minority on the House Committee on Education and Labor claimed in April that the American Families Plan would be "crushing" to American families and that its "new and costly" paid leave protections were unnecessary.

"Republicans understand the importance of voluntary employer benefit programs, including access to paid sick leave," they argued, claiming it the mandate is "unnecessary" because 78% of workers already get some paid sick leave. They offered no help for those who receive less than seven days of paid leave each year or the nearly one in four workers who receive none at all.

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) attacked Biden's proposal to spend $225 billion for paid family leave as unaffordable. "There's no such thing as a free lunch," she tweeted on April 28, also dismissing other provisions of the bill.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) tweeted a week earlier that paid leave "ain't infrastructure."

"Roads & bridges are infrastructure," agreed Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX). "Paid leave and electric vehicle subsidies are NOT."

Rather than provide paid leave, some House Republicans simply want to let people shelter the money people spend on family leave expenses from their taxes.

"I'm excited to announce that I've cosponsored the 'Freedom for Families Act' (H.R. 53) introduced by @RepAndyBiggsAZ of Arizona!" bragged Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in February.  "H.R. 53 allows Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSAs) to be used for paid family leave expenses and increases the amount a person can contribute."

Biggs called this a way to provide "financial security for families during family leave without new taxes or new federal burdens on employees."

But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 30% of private industry workers had access to Health Savings Accounts in 2019 — and just 18% of workers at businesses with fewer than 50 workers.

Biden's American Rescue Plan included emergency paid leave for federal workers. The Republican minority on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform included it on their April 28 list of "100 failures" from Biden's first 100 days in office and mocked it as "$570 million for additional paid leave to federal employees so they can watch their kids Zoom into school."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.