West Virginians strongly back paid leave in Biden's jobs bill, new poll finds

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The poll also found overwhelming support for the bill's other provisions.

A new poll of West Virginia voters has found overwhelming support for the paid leave provisions in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better jobs package, but both of the state's U.S. senators have been trying to stop them from becoming law.

The survey, released Tuesday by Paid Leave for All Action, an advocacy group pushing for paid leave policies, and Global Strategy Group, a national public opinion research firm, found that 80% of West Virginia voters support "ensuring paid leave for all U.S. workers suffering from a serious illness," while just 18% oppose it.

By a 75%-23% margin, they also support "ensuring paid leave for all U.S. workers caring for a seriously ill family member" and back "ensuring paid leave for all U.S. workers caring for a new child" 72%-26%.

Last month, the House passed its version of the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better climate change and caregiving infrastructure bill. It included a provision that would give up to four weeks of paid leave for workers in those situations.

The bill passed 220-213, despite all three members of the West Virginia delegation, Republican Reps. David McKinley, Carol Miller, and Alex Mooney, and the rest of the GOP House minority voting no.

The Senate is expected to take up the package before the end of December. The Democratic majority in the upper chamber is still working out changes to the bill to get the needed 50 votes to pass it under budget reconciliation rules, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break any ties.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has indicated that he supports the overall framework but that he has qualms about the paid leave provisions.

"I've been very clear where I stand on that," he told reporters on Nov. 17, reiterating that he did not like the idea of including the House-backed paid leave section in the final bill.

Manchin has not committed to passing any bill this year, with or without paid leave, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday he is hopeful his caucus will pass something "before Christmas."

Like the rest of her GOP colleagues, West Virginia's other senator, Shelley Moore Capito, has opposed the entire plan, calling it "a reckless taxing and spending bill" and "way over the top."

The new poll shows her constituents also back many of the other key provisions in the package.

It found 81%-17% support for "allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and cover hearing benefits," 58%-37% support for universal pre-K, 69%-30% support for "building and renovating affordable housing so that it is energy efficient," and 54% -39% support for extending the expanded child tax credit.

The Biden administration released a fact sheet in October noting that the Build Back Better framework would be especially beneficial for the state.

It noted that the affordable child care provisions would help address "a major strain for families in West Virginia, where the average annual cost of a child care center for a toddler is $5,871"; provide quality free preschool "to more than 27,753 additional 3- and 4-year-olds [in West Virginia] per year"; and provide "free school meals to an additional 38,000 students" in the state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.