Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week re-pitched their paid family leave platforms, clarifying key points and kicking off a renewed focus on the issue.
Clinton’s campaign rolled out new details clarifying the candidate’s paid family leave stance, outlining her plans to allow up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave as well as a two-thirds wage replacement rate. The proposal would be made possible by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Sanders, a day after Clinton released her clarifying points, announced his own paid leave policy during a press conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Vermont senator pitched three months of paid family and medical leave, proposing it be paid for through a payroll tax on workers and their employers, which the campaign estimated to amount to $1.61 per week.
“In my view, and I have to say this is a fairly conservative approach, every worker in America should be guaranteed at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said of his plan, according to The Hill.
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Sanders also touted his co-sponsorship of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, legislation rolled out early last year in conjunction with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would similarly mandate 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child or a sick family member.
Although both Clinton and Sanders support similar policy steps, the major difference between the two is in how they would pay for it. Clinton has vowed not to increase taxes on the middle class, and her paid leave proposal likewise details her view that although paid leave is important, “middle-class families deserve a raise, not a tax increase” and taxes on the wealthy could cover costs.
Meanwhile, Sanders and his campaign argue that all Americans should have a financial stake in an expanded family leave program, much like they do in Social Security and Medicare.
Even as the leading Democratic candidates push for major moves forward in paid family leave policies, the two face criticism that their plans do not go far enough in supporting working families.
“These proposals for about three months of paid family leave would be a massive jump over the zero days now available to U.S. workers, who are entitled under current law to 12 weeks of leave without pay,” ThinkProgress reported of the candidates’ pitches. “Yet both Sanders and Clinton’s plans would still leave the U.S. behind most of the world, giving workers less time off than they would get in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Vietnam.”
Republican presidential candidates have largely avoided discussion of paid family leave policies. Only Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has released a proposal around the issue. Rubio’s plan provides a tax credit to employers who elect to offer paid leave to their employees, but was harshly criticized for doing little to broaden access to the benefits.
Other GOP candidates such as Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have spoken out against federal paid leave policies. Fiorina has said that corporations should decide who receives paid leave, while the federal government should play no role in mandating leave policies.
The United States trails far behind most countries when it comes to paid family leave policies, and is the only country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave, and is one of just nine that doesn’t provide paid paternity leave.
The country’s lagging policies on the topic has led to a strong push on the campaign trail by Democrats to address the best ways to bring the United States’ paid family leave policies up to date with the rest of the world.