More than two million federal employees were given the benefit last December, but some federal employees were left out. Should they be added now?
As part of December’s annual defense appropriations law, more than two million federal employees were granted 12 weeks of paid parental leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. A *Washington Post *analysis deemed “the biggest victory for federal employees in nearly 30 years.” The policy is scheduled to go into effect on October 1.
Even though many Republicans were skeptical, the provision was enacted as a compromise, in which Republicans agreed to Democrats’ request for the paid parental leave in exchange for Democrats acceding to President Trump’s proposal to create the Space Force.
Yet due to a technicality, about 100 thousand federal workers were left out. The new law applied to federal employees who fall under a category called “Title 5,” named after the section of the U.S. Code which covers most administrative personnel.
But it left out several other categories of federal workers, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), presidential appointees at the White House, and courts and the public defender’s office for Washington, D.C.
What the legislation does
The Federal Employee Parental Leave Technical Correction Act would correct this inadvertent error, by giving all federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
The Senate version was introduced on December 18 as bill number S. 3104, by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The House version was introduced on February 13 as bill number H.R. 5885, by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the legislation is only fair, so certain federal workers aren’t arbitrarily and accidentally left out of a benefit that most federal workers will soon receive.
“The federal government is our nation’s largest employer, and it should be a model employer for the nation,” Rep. Maloney said in a press release. “Because we passed the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act earlier this year, more than 2 million federal employees received a guarantee of 12 weeks paid leave for the birth, fostering, or adoption of a child. The legislation… will ensure that even more federal employees no longer need to choose between their paychecks or being home with their new child.”
What opponents say
The legislation almost passed the Senate in December, but was effectively blocked by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). While Toomey didn’t even appear to oppose the bill on its merits, he insisted that the bill — a fix to a previously enacted law — be paired with his own similar fix to a previously enacted law: the Restoring Investment in Improvements Act, which would correct an inadvertent error related to tax writeoffs for certain business renovations included in 2017’s tax reform.
“I am the senator on the floor who is proposing that both Senators get their way, that the outcome works for both sides,” Sen. Toomey said on the Senate floor. “This is a Democratic priority. Some Republicans support it; some don’t. It is a Democratic priority on a mistake that was made, and I am suggesting let’s fix it. Let’s take the opportunity to also fix something that 66 Senators have supported.”
Toomey’s proposal was in turn blocked by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who supported the parental leave fix but refused to pair it with the tax writeoff fix. Schatz’s logic was that the former adjusted a broadly supported bipartisan law, but the latter adjusted a Republican law, and thus should be dealt with separately.
“What the senator from Pennsylvania has decided to do is take a hostage and say, ‘These are the only federal employees who are not going to get this benefit, because of a technical and drafting error,” Sen. Schatz said on the Senate floor. “‘I didn’t get something totally unrelated that has to do with a tax bill that was passed on purely partisan lines in a hurry, written primarily by lobbyists in the middle of the night.”
Odds of passage
The House version has attracted 15 bipartisan cosponsors: eight Republicans and seven Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Administration, Oversight and Reform, or Judiciary Committees.
The Senate version has attracted eight cosponsors, all Democrats. It’s not clear why the House version’s cosponsorship is so much more bipartisan than the Senate’s. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
A single senator has already effectively blocked the bill from passage once, so even despite the evenly bipartisan House cosponsorship, enactment is hardly guaranteed.