Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mitt Romney of Utah, with House co-sponsor Ann Wagner of Missouri, unveiled a paid family leave bill on Wednesday, which would require interested new parents to make changes to their Social Security strategy.
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Under the legislation, parents can pull forward up to three months of those retirement benefits to use for leave following the birth, or adoption, of a child.
"Working parents are often trapped in a series of no-win situations," Rubio said during a press conference on Wednesday. "We are proposing a change to Social Security to apply it to the challenges of our time."
Wagner and Rubio had previously said leave could be supplemented at levels that can reach as high as 70 percent to 80 percent of regular income.
The benefit is transferrable between parents in a household – meaning one parent could use the benefit for two weeks, and the other could use it for six weeks. In exchange, these workers would be required to delay claiming their retirement benefits by three to six months. The idea is they would receive roughly the same amount in benefits they would be giving up later, in advance.
People who choose the leave option could also have the sum gradually deducted from benefits over the first five years of retirement. Parents could also claim the benefit, even if they are still working full or part time.
Rubio and Romney reiterated that the bill would enact no new taxes, would not place any new mandates on small businesses and would not add to the national debt.
Rubio first introduced the legislation in August – since then, the bill has been updated slightly. He was the first 2016 presidential candidate to voice support for paid family leave.
Rubio said in August that he didn’t want to use Social Security to fund family leave, but instead wanted parents to have the option of using a portion of their benefits for that purpose if they so choose.
Republicans have been pushing for paid family leave – a long-sought Democratic initiative – with increasing force throughout recent years. President Trump promised that his fiscal 2020 budget blueprint would include a plan for nationwide paid family leave. The budget calls for six weeks of paid leave for new parents and $1 billion to help create child-care programs.
Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Lee of Utah rolled out legislation earlier month, which also draws on the idea of pulling forward Social Security benefits.
Meanwhile, Democrats have been pushing proposals of their own, which are typically more extensive than what their conservative counterparts are unveiling.
New York senator and 2020 Democratic hopeful, Kirsten Gillibrand, has reintroduced her paid family leave bill every year since 2013. It would require that workers are partially paid for up to 12 weeks to cover time off for not only taking care of children, but also taking care of a sick family member or even their own sick days. The plan would compensate workers for as much as 66 percent of income, while it would also implement a 0.4 percent payroll tax.
According to estimates from the Congressional Research Service, 13 percent of private-sector employees had access to paid family leave through their employers, with a higher prevalence among high-paying occupations, large companies and for full-time employees.
The issue has also been championed by White House adviser – and first daughter – Ivanka Trump.