The battle over family leave is heating up as Democrats scramble to close a social spending deal. The Obama administration and congressional leadership are at odds with each other, as Congress tries to balance the need for job creation against the need to spend more on education and infrastructure projects.
But a policy dispute over family leave is also looming in the background. President Obama already locked in a major victory for working families when he won expansion of both the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit back in December . Now he is pushing to include a provision that would require companies to allow workers up to seven days of paid sick leave each year, granting them time off if their child falls ill. The House version of the bill gives employers a choice between mandated sick leave or giving employees 7 additional paid vacation days each year.
It’s a choice that Republican lawmakers aren’t willing to grant. And they say it’s ridiculous for Obama and congressional Democrats to ask them to do so, considering how President Bush handled his own spending requests.
We all know somebody who has had the flu this year, said House minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a recent press conference. But if you heard the stories about what happened at the White House during this H1N1 virus, there were people all over the place. I don’t think that was right then it’s not right to do now .
Boehner was referring to President Obama’s decision to halt his executive order requiring federal agencies to provide their employees seven paid sick days each year so the White House could shut down for five days in late October.
The president said it was important to keep government fully staffed during the pandemic, but critics pointed out that instead of closing his entire staff, Obama could have reduced their workload or required them to stay home without pay.
Boehner acknowledged that Republican lawmakers had considered taking the same approach when they passed their version of the spending bill in July. But he pointed out that unlike Obama, Bush hadn’t been able to claim a public health emergency as a reason for keeping his own staff on the job. You can imagine what we would have been criticized if we’d cut taxes and then turned around and asked Congress to take a week off and then we couldn’t even work during that time, he said.
The House Republican Caucus has launched a website containing ads and messages demanding that Obama should not be allowed to close the White House again during his fight for the sick leave proposal. One such ad features images of children with slogans like If your child is sick, you should be able to take your sick child to the doctor.
The White House has responded by stating that Boehner’s comparison is unfair, because federal workers are not paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week .