In his State of the Union address tonight, President Trump is expected to highlight the inclusion of paid parental leave for federal workers in the defense legislation that Congress approved at the end of last year. According to two White House officials, Trump will encourage Congress to work toward passing a paid-leave program that would enable all workers, not just federal employees, to take paid time off of work after the birth of a child.
Trump has included a nod to paid leave in every State of the Union address since he took office, and the issue has been a particular focus for his eldest daughter, Ivanka, who has spent the last several years meeting with lawmakers and encouraging them to consider developing a federal program that would cover parental leave without imposing a mandate on businesses or creating a new entitlement.
The most recent poll on the subject was conducted by Echelon Insights on behalf of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (where I am a visiting fellow) and found that a majority of both men and women across the political spectrum support some form of paid family leave.
Seventy-one percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “most parents with children in the United States should be eligible for some form of paid family leave benefits,” a figure that includes 66 percent of men and three-quarters of women. Support for paid family leave was substantially higher among Democratic respondents than among Republicans, but even so, more than 60 percent of both Republican men and women say they favor it. Sixty-five percent of self-identified conservatives, compared with 68 percent of moderates and 83 percent of liberals, support paid family leave.
The same survey found that a substantial majority (64 percent) of all respondents said paid leave should not be funded by imposing new taxes, a figure that included a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. More than half of respondents said a paid-leave program should not cost the government more money. Meanwhile, a majority across the political spectrum said employers should be required to cover the costs.
Though Congress isn’t likely to accomplish much legislatively this year, given that one party controls each chamber and there are elections coming up, paid leave is one issue where progress might be possible — especially given that several conservative lawmakers have proposed plans to finance parental leave without imposing any new taxes or increasing government spending.