Far-left Democrats are working overtime to pressure Sen. Joe Manchin III, a key swing vote for the White House’s agenda, to drop his opposition to President Biden’s paid family and medical leave program.
Progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are making their support for Mr. Biden’s nearly $2 trillion social welfare bill contingent upon the inclusion of a federal guarantee for every worker to get four weeks of paid leave.
They say that without the provision the package falls far short of its intended goal to expand the social safety net.
“This is a real blow to working families and it continues the embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family leave,” said Mr. Sanders.
“I have met … low-income women workers in this country who give birth and a week later are back at work against their doctor’s advice,” the socialist lawmaker said.
The White House had already tried to appease critics by slashing its proposal from 12 weeks to 4 weeks, but the overall program remains costly.
Progressives are refusing to take no for an answer, however. Paid family advocates are actively lobbying Mr. Manchin to change his position.
“It’s not over … I have given many versions of what paid lead could look like to meet what Sen. Manchin would be willing to agree to,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat. “He is studying all those proposals … We will continue to negotiate over the weeks and days to come.”
Mr. Manchin, for his part, has promised to keep an open mind about the topic.
If his opposition holds, however, it is likely to be final since Democrats are planning to push the spending package through Congress along party lines using budget reconciliation.
The unexpected “red line” from progressives surprised the White House and Congressional Democrats. It has also upended negotiations on the spending bill, which lawmakers were hoping to finalize before Mr. Biden leaves for a series of meetings and summits in Europe this week.
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