“I had a very busy time and a very busy day, and my daughter said, ‘You will be here,’ so that was the end of that busy day,” President Donald Trump told a White House audience Thursday morning during a discussion on paid parental time off.
Ivanka Trump, first daughter and presidential adviser, gathered Capitol Hill lawmakers, governors, a cabinet secretary — and, yes, the president — at the White House in an attempt to generate momentum for paid family leave.
“No mother should ever have to choose between staying at home with her infant and being fired from her job,” Ivanka said during her opening remarks for the three-hour discussion.
Most of the congressional attendees were Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and Joni Ernst and Rep. Daniel Crenshaw. Meanwhile, Reps. Colin Allred and Joe Cunningham were the only Democrats to make the trek down Pennsylvania Avenue.
But as the Republicans spoke it became clear that the parties remain divided on how far paid leave should go and how it should be funded. The GOP insists on more “government mandates” or legislation that would add to the federal deficit.
For instance, Crenshaw touted a bill that would let workers use their future Social Security payments for paid leave. It’s “not a handout,” said Crenshaw. “It’s borrowing for your future.”
Meanwhile, the FAMILY Act, which has more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors in the House, would cover two-thirds of an employee’s monthly wages for up to 12 weeks while they care for a newborn child or sick relative. It would be funded through an increase in the payroll tax.
The issue received a potential boost earlier in the week when Congress included in its military spending bill a measure that would give 2.2 federal civilian workers 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. The president indicated he could sign the measure as early as this week.
Several speakers, including Ivanka, applauded Congress for expanding the federal leave program, but labor experts are skeptical about whether the federal policy can gain traction in the private sector, where resources and concerns are different.
For instance, a Congressional Budget Office estimate released late Wednesday said the new benefit would cost about $3.3 billion through fiscal 2024 and the bill does not provide a funding mechanism.
It’s unclear where the policy goes from here. Although there have been meetings at the staff level, congressional Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on a compromise.
But Trump, with his trademark bravado, assured the audience a deal could be worked out despite partisan rancor and an impending impeachment vote.
“They may like me, they may not,” said Trump. “But we get it done.”