Senator Joe Manchin is surrounded by reporters outside of the Capitol.

House Democrats Put Paid Family Leave Back in Bill, Manchin Keeps Making It About Him

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Last week, the White House unveiled a new version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan after taking measures to appease Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the two Democratic senators who were stonewalling the bill’s progress for their own interests. One of the most upsetting changes was the removal of paid family leave. Biden had initially proposed 12 weeks of paid leave but reduced it to four weeks after Manchin objected to the cost, before removing it entirely.

This was incredibly disappointing. Paid leave is essential for the economic, physical, and emotional wellbeing of families, and the U.S. is far, far behind the rest of the world when it comes to recognizing that. We finally had it within reach, with overwhelming support from both lawmakers and the public, and then Joe Manchin goes and pretty much singlehandedly decides it’s not going to happen.

He even admitted he didn’t know much about the issue, saying he needed to do research into what other countries do, yet he still felt entitled to deny millions of people this essential life-changing support.

However, it looks like the fight for paid family leave isn’t over yet. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that she’s adding four weeks of paid leave back into the bill that will be considered in the House.

It’s normal for the House and Senate to send drafts of bills back and forth, making amendments that then need to be approved by the other chamber before the bill finally gets to Biden’s desk. But Pelosi had been saying for months that she would only bring the bill to a vote if it could also pass in the Senate, in order to “spare her moderates a tough vote twice,” as CNN writes—perhaps especially since the Build Back Better vote has become entangled with the fate of an infrastructure package also currently on the table.

So, either Pelosi has changed her mind and is going to force Manchin and probably Sinema to vote against the version of the package supported by most Americans or there’s been some progress in behind-the-scenes negotiations that make her confident this will pass.

There’s been a narrative created around this package that Biden and Democrats are caving to the most progressive wing of Congress at the expense of moderates and the majority of Democratic lawmakers. That’s simply not true. This package is sweeping in its scope, but it’s not wildly progressive. And again, it’s supported by the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters and lawmakers. Only two people stand in its way, demanding everyone else “cave” to their demands.

Joe Manchin continues to make this issue about him, as he reportedly called Pelosi’s decision a “challenge.”

Dear Joe Manchin,

Trying to provide millions of people with structural support around the birth of a child or a family member’s illness—very common things for people to deal with in their lives—isn’t actually about you. No one cares about “challenging” you and your ego. They’re just trying to pass a bill.

Sincerely, Literally Everyone.

(image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.