The Corner

Politics & Policy

Ivanka Trump at NRI Event: Paid-Parental Leave Is a Priority for the Administration

Ivanka Trump during a National Review Institute event in Washington D.C , November 14, 2019

In an event hosted yesterday by the National Review Institute at Google’s D.C. offices, Ivanka Trump talked with our own Ramesh Ponnuru about her efforts to make paid-parental leave a top issue for her father’s administration. She noted that her father is “the first president, Republican or Democrat, to call for a national [paid-parental–leave] plan in every single budget.”

Trump said that, for about the first year of her father’s time in office, she spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill talking with lawmakers — and especially with Republicans, trying to convince them that championing paid-parental leave is a conservative issue and can be accomplished in a way that aligns with the GOP platform.

As Ramesh pointed out, there’s not yet a conservative consensus on that point, with some on the right insisting that it isn’t the job of the federal government to craft a paid-leave plan at the national level. Some of those conservatives favor either state-level plans or allowing businesses and employees to develop paid-leave plans that satisfy everyone, or some combination of both.

During a panel on the Hill this summer, conservative policy experts debated the relative merits of the various plans on offer, and two conservative scholars on the panel argued that a national policy is neither conservative in principle nor effective in practice.

During yesterday’s event, though, Trump noted that improvements in paid-leave programs at the state and employer level tend to benefit those parents who already are economically able to do without paid time off, while lower-income Americans are less likely to see changes to their available options. She also mentioned that those parents become more likely to go on some form of public assistance as a result, suggesting that a federal paid-leave program of some kind could accomplish the conservative goal of keeping Americans from needing other forms of federal assistance.

Jim Geraghty echoed this point in today’s Morning Jolt, talking about yesterday’s event:

On paper, there’s room for a bipartisan consensus here; social conservatives are increasingly comfortable requiring employers to give a little more help to new parents, and Democrats always want to regulate everything — er, I mean they’re open to enacting new rules to make businesses more responsive to the needs of working parents. [Ivanka] Trump kept emphasizing that parents who have access to paid leave after giving birth or adopting a child are significantly less likely to go on public assistance, so this policy can be justified on fiscal grounds. If you can keep people off of welfare, you never face the challenge of getting them off of it and back into the workforce.

Perhaps most interesting, after she walked through the various plans on offer from lawmakers on the Hill, Trump demurred when asked whether she expects the administration to pick one favorite among them. “The fact that three different legislative options have been proposed by Senate Republicans — and in one case a Republican and a Democrat — in the past four months, maybe six months, that’s pretty good considering the various policy issues that are constantly being debated,” she said.

Trump was referring to the two plans that would allow parents to draw forward Social Security benefits after the birth or adoption of a child — one sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Joni Ernst (Iowa), the other sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mitt Romney (Utah) — along with the bipartisan plan sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R., La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), which would allow parents to draw forward up to $5000 from the child tax credit after the birth or adoption of a child.

She noted that some of the plans are not incompatible and said the administration likely will wait to see which one can gather a big enough coalition to have a chance of becoming law, although she did say that any policy that placed a mandate on businesses, especially small businesses, would be a red line.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, a number of senators have coalesced around the FAMILY Act, which would create an entirely new entitlement program to fund not only paid-parental leave but also personal medical leave and family leave (to be used for caring for sick relatives, for instance). The plan has yet to be scored, but it would raise the payroll tax to cover its costs.

Ivanka Trump is hoping, along with a growing number of conservatives, that the Right will prioritize this issue and rally around a plan to address the concerns of American parents so that the progressive option isn’t the only one on the table.

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