Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
A provision that would grant Americans access to unemployment benefits when they miss work to care for an ailing loved one or bond with a new child is back in the Democrats’ still-stalled “Build Back Better” spending bill.
As first reported by Mike Lillis of The Hill, Democrats amended their social spending framework to include paid family leave, which had been dropped last week in an effort to garner the support of moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The revised version of paid family leave would be just one-third the size of President Joe Biden’s initial plans. Originally, “Build Back Better” would have granted 12 weeks of paid family leave, while the new framework will cap the time at four weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered her support to the return of paid family leave in a pair of tweets Wednesday calling the legislation “transformational”:
#PaidLeaveForAll builds on the transformational provisions of @POTUS Build Back Better Act which will benefit millions of parents and families across America with child care and universal pre-K, the Child Tax Credit, home health care and more!
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 3, 2021
Insider.com reports that Manchin, whose vote will be required for Democrats to get any bill through the Senate, might yet support “Build Back Better” despite it containing paid family leave, a measure he’d previously opposed.
Manchin, though, is pushing for the leave to be funded through the introduction of a new payroll tax that would force both employees and employers to take on the burden of paying for such leave.
“I think that basically employers and employees should participate,” Manchin told Insider.com. “We have states around this country doing it now. We have countries around the world doing it, and it seems to work very well and does not put a burden on anybody.”
Paid family leave isn’t the only new obstacle to the Democrats’ legislation. A fracture has emerged over what is known as the “SALT Tax,” a law that caps the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers can deduct from their federal income taxes at $10,000.
This cap is felt most acutely in areas with the highest local and state taxes, most of which are Democrat-run.
On Tuesday, Congressmembers Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J), and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) issued a joint statement in which threatened to withhold their support of the spending bill unless SALT cap was repealed.
“The cap on the SALT deduction remains a punishing blow to our home states of New York and New Jersey as we work to recover from the pandemic and get our economies on strong footing and our constituents back to work,” the statement reads. “Today’s news is encouraging for a SALT cap repeal to be included in the final reconciliation package. We will continue to work with House and Senate leadership to ensure the cap on the SALT deduction is repealed. No SALT, no deal. No SALT, no dice.”
This move drew a rebuke from Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a registered independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Like Manchin’s, Melendez and Sanders’ votes will be required in order for any legislation to pass the Senate. Melendez and Sanders argue that the cap should remain in place for people earning more than $400,000 a year and eliminated for everyone else.
“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the rich are becoming richer and working families are struggling, the job of Congress is to demand tax fairness for working families and to make certain that the wealthiest people in this country begin to pay their fair share of taxes,” Sanders said in a statement.
Although they did not address paid family leave directly, Republicans remained steadfast in their objection to the entirety of the social spending bill.
“Americans are facing empty shelves and higher prices right as we head into the holiday season,” Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) tweeted. “The Democrats’ record-breaking tax and spending spree is the last thing families need.”
Americans are facing empty shelves and higher prices right as we head into the holiday season.
The Democrats’ record-breaking tax and spending spree is the last thing families need. pic.twitter.com/OAOKTnWTVY
— Rep. Michelle Steel (@RepSteel) November 3, 2021
“The radical transformation that Democrats are writing behind closed doors would compound every mistake their party has made,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate Floor. “Look at virtually any part of American families’ lives … and Democrats’ reckless taxing and spending spree would seize control of it and yank it way to the left.”
According to the Washington Times, Republicans have also requested the U.S. Congressional Budget Office to audit the bill before a vote occurs.
“Democrats want to vote on one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history w/ out knowing how much it will cost taxpayers,” Steel tweeted. “I joined my colleagues in requesting a @USCBO score before any vote on this bill. The American people deserve transparency.”
Democrats want to vote on one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history w/ out knowing how much it will cost taxpayers. I joined my colleagues in requesting a @USCBO score before any vote on this bill. The American people deserve transparency.https://t.co/6tWiNVi3FY
— Rep. Michelle Steel (@RepSteel) November 3, 2021
Republicans were also quick to point out the hypocrisy of Democrats wanting to repeal the SALT tax. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) pointed out that while Democrats on the surface say they are for the middle class, they are really just looking out for their donors:
When “tax the rich” really means “let’s write catchy slogans on dresses but actually give the rich a $36,000 tax cut.”
Yes, this is what Democrats want to put in the reconciliation bill. No, this is not a joke.
Price hikes for you, tax cuts for rich New Yorkers. pic.twitter.com/bgGXLL4XWK
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 4, 2021
The Hill reports that Pelosi has not yet called for a vote on a bill, as she has pledged to not force her colleagues to decide on legislation that will not pass the Senate.