Paid Family Leave Working Group Making Progress

Oklahoma Congresswoman Stephanie Bice is helping lead a bipartisan effort in Congress to change the country's lack of mandatory paid family leave.

Tuesday, November 21st 2023, 4:15 pm

By: News 9, Alex Cameron


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As families get together this week for the uniquely American Thanksgiving holiday, it’s worth noting that America remains the only economically advanced nation in the world without mandatory paid family leave. But Oklahoma Congresswoman Stephanie Bice is helping lead a bipartisan effort in Congress to change that.

As much as the House has been in a state of paralysis this fall because of the Speaker vacancy and the scorched earth politics of some members on the far right, not all work came to a halt.

"No, as a matter fact, we've continued to move forward in the discussions we’ve been having," said Rep. Bice (R-OK5) in an interview last week.

The Paid Family Leave Working Group, co-chaired by Oklahoma's Bice and Pennsylvania Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, spent much of 2023 hearing from outside stakeholders, such as small business owners, corporate business representatives, and leaders in some of the 12 states that already have paid leave laws on the books.

Bice says she and Houlahan have also been meeting with their counterparts in the Senate and "just met with staff to start walking through some of the ideas that we have to actually put pen to paper and start working on language," Bice noted.

Guaranteeing workers paid time off to care for their own serious medical problem, a newborn or newly adopted child, or a family member's major medical condition is expensive, and so the big question for the group is deciding how to pay for it -- with contributions from employers, from workers, from taxpayers, or some combination of the three.

Bice says the funding component is a challenge. She says Republicans certainly are less likely to support legislation that creates a new federal program the adds to the national debt. "We may be scaling down the direction that we’re going," Bice explained, "meaning it won’t be a caregiving leave and paid family leave, it may just be parental leave initially, and then expanding upon that."

Rep. Bice says she, Congresswoman Houlahan, and the entire working group are committed, however, to getting something done. "There’s a lot of interest in this topic," Bice said, "and so we recognize there’s an opportunity for us to really get something across the finish line."

Bice says she's hopeful they could introduce legislation sometime during the first quarter of 2024.

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