U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday criticized a Republican proposal that would grant paid leave to new parents and called on Congress to pass her bill that would establish a national paid family leave program.
Legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Mike Lee would allow new parents to receive up to three months of paid leave. To receive paid leave, parents must agree to delay collecting their Social Security benefits by up to six months.
Under the Ernst-Lee proposal, parents would submit a form to the Social Security Administration to notify the agency they intend to collect paid leave for the adoption or birth of a child. Payments would commence two weeks after the parents applied for their child's social security number.
Ernst, R-Iowa, contends her proposal is budget neutral that doesn't require a new government "entitlement."
"It's past time we modernize our family leave policies to reflect the evolving needs of today's workforce and to reduce the barriers that pose challenges for parents balancing family and work," Ernst said in a statement.
The senators' bill is similar to the paid leave proposal backed by President Donald Trump, who endorsed the idea in his State of the Union address. His budget calls for instituting paid leave for new parents.
But Gillibrand, D-N.Y., doesn't believe the Republicans' proposal is adequate. While she acknowledged that both parties are considering ideas to provide paid leave, she said the Ernst-Lee bill "is not a realistic plan."
"It only covers new parents and it creates a false choice between Social Security and paid leave," she said.
For years, Gillibrand has sponsored a bill, the FAMILY Act, in the Senate that would establish a national paid leave program. Her measure would establish an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, workers who need to care for a seriously ill relative or to assist families after a relative is deployed for military service.
The national paid leave program would be funded by employee and employer payroll contributions. Gillibrand has said the total cost would amount to about $4 a week between the employer and the employee.
"My bill, the FAMILY Act, is the paid leave program our country needs," Gillibrand said. "It's affordable, sustainable, comprehensive and it covers every working American for about the cost of a cup of coffee per week."
The Ernst-Lee bill and Gillibrand's FAMILY Act may not advance in Congress. The House, controlled by Democrats, is unlikely to consider the Republican plan. And it's unlikely that the Republican-led Senate will vote on Gillibrand's bill.