WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter King huddled with presidential adviser Ivanka Trump and other GOP lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss competing paid family leave proposals, amid a renewed push by Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation creating a federal paid family leave program.
King (R-Seaford) met with President Donald Trump’s daughter behind closed doors ahead of a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing on paid family leave proposals on Capitol Hill. King said Trump used the gathering, attended mainly by Republicans, to call for consensus building around the issue.
“I don’t know that any one of us knows what the answer is, but something has to be done,” King said. “In almost every family, both parents are working. We have to find a way to address to parental leave.”
Trump’s private meeting came minutes before Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy, calling for bipartisan support around her proposal -- the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act -- which she first introduced in 2013. Gillibrand’s plan would cover up to two-thirds of a worker’s wages for up to three months, and would be funded through an increase in payroll taxes.
“We need a national paid leave program now,” Gillibrand said at the meeting. “The good news is that both sides of the aisle recognize that this is a national problem. Individual states are taking the lead all over the country, with bipartisan bills and state laws that are offering real paid leave programs.”
Ivanka Trump has been working alongside Sen. Marco Rubio (R- Fla.) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), on a forthcoming bill that would offer paid parental leave funded through the Social Security Administration, according to media reports. Under the Republican plan, parents opting to take leave would collect their Social Security benefits before their retirement, and push back the receiving date for their benefits after retirement to offset the cost.
King, speaking after the subcommittee meeting, said he saw elements of both plans he liked, saying lawmakers should consider “maybe a hybrid or composite of what Gillibrand is talking about and what Rubio is talking about.” King said more cost analysis and vetting of both plans needed to be done.
“It should all be on the table,” King said, adding that he had no “ideological opposition” to a federal paid family leave program.
Meanwhile, King’s Democratic challenger in the upcoming midterm election, Liuba Grechen Shirley, took to Twitter Wednesday to criticize the incumbent for his previous votes “against paid family leave.”
“Let’s not pretend he stands up for families — the damage is done,” Shirley tweeted.
Asked about Shirley’s criticism, King said he voted against paid family leave in 1993 because “it was a different economic situation then.”
Shirley, in a statement, said she fully supports “Senator Gillibrand's FAMILY Act, but it's important to note that this policy alone is not enough to solve the problem too many parents are facing. It costs as much to send a child to daycare in many parts of the country as it does to send a teen to public college. We need quality affordable childcare for all families and universal pre-k so that parents can reenter the workforce and children have the best possible start.”