Nancy Pelosi, US House Speaker, announced changes in a Wednesday letter to her colleagues, saying it was done “at the urging of many members of the caucus.”
When Vice President Joe Biden introduced the American Families Plan in May, it included 12 weeks of paid family leave as part of a much larger post-pandemic economic restart. However, after months of compilation and negotiation, the resulting Build Back Better Act bill had been reduced to four weeks of leave.
“The reason it’s down to four weeks is I can’t get 12 weeks,” Biden said at a CNN-hosted town hall on October 21. However, in the framework, the White House released a week later, paid family leave was totally absent.
The United States is the only developed nation that does not have a national statutory paid maternity, paternity, or parental leave policy. Some government initiatives provide limited paid or unpaid leave and some states also provide paid leave.
Pelosi said on Tuesday that she thought all unresolved issues about the bill, which is estimated to cost $1.75 trillion over the next decade, could be resolved by the end of the day, a sequence that would have allowed for a vote by the end of the week.
Manchin made clear on Wednesday his continued opposition to paid family leave, telling reporters that the bill is “the wrong place to put it because it’s a social expansion … let’s get our financial house in order and then be able to tackle all of these.”
He stated earlier this week that they are “not in a rush right now” and that the negotiations will take “quite a while” to conclude.
On Wednesday afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) assured reporters that Democrats have the votes in both chambers of Congress to enact the Build Back Better Act.
Meghan Markle, the California-born former Duchess of Sussex, who, along with her husband Prince Harry, stood aside from their British royal duties last year and moved to the United States, was among those exerting pressure on senators to support the bill, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Sen. Shelley Capito of West Virginia, Manchin’s Republican colleague, explained the situation.
“I’m in my car. I’m driving. It says caller ID blocked. Honestly … I thought it was Sen. Manchin. His calls come in blocked. And she goes ‘Sen. Capito?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.’”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) got a call from the royal, telling Politico, “I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it.” Markle lives in Montecito, California.
The United Kingdom provides 12 weeks of full-rate equivalent paid leave and a total of 52 weeks of maternity leave, although the weekly stipend gradually decreases. All-female workers must take a two-week leave after giving birth, or four weeks if they work in a factory.