Ivanka Trump’s White House summit on paid family leave marks a significant turning point in her quest to get Republicans on board her pet issue.
Soon after Donald Trump arrived at the White House in 2017, some skeptics comforted themselves knowing that the first daughter and adviser to the president would be there to sand down some of her father’s rougher edges. But so far, Ivanka has been one of the quieter voices in an administration driven by hard-liners such as immigration specialist Stephen Miller.
Except when it comes to paid leave. Ivanka, a working mother of three, has been the White House point person on the issue in an attempt to bring along more Republicans, who have long been hostile to the initiative.
This Thursday, Ivanka, along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, is scheduled to host a White House roundtable to discuss paid leave. The meeting comes at the end of 10 regional roundtables hosted by HHS’ Administration for Children and Families and 12 by the Department of Labor.
Over the past three years, Ivanka has talked with some high-profile supporters of paid leave to shine a brighter spotlight on the issue. In October she met at the White House with Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian to discuss the issue. Ohanian, who is married to 23-time women’s tennis Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams, was in town to meet with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as part of a “dadvocacy day.”
Democrats have long championed paid family leave but have run up against Republicans loath to create another government mandate for private businesses. But paid leave is gaining steam with some in the GOP, such as Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri. Wagner, a member of the Suburban Caucus, told a crowd of parents gathered on the Capitol lawn in April that the issue would be a priority for the group.
And there has been other progress. Ivanka touted a provision included in the defense spending bill that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees, should it be signed into law. The change would be the first major expansion of federal leave since 1993, when Congress mandated unpaid time off for new parents.
Of course the wild card in how this plays out will be President Trump himself. He has proven that he can help legislation over the finish line when it’s something he cares about enough to lend his sustained attention to. While he called for paid leave in a 2017 joint address to Congress, the challenge will be persuading him to make a meaningful push to pass the initiative, particularly as the impeachment drama drags into next year.