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Rubio, Romney, Wagner, Crenshaw Unveil Bill Giving Parents an Option for Paid Family Leave

Mar 27, 2019 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — At a press conference earlier today, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) and U.S. Representatives Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) unveiled their paid family leave proposal titled the New Parents Act. The legislation creates a voluntary option to finance parental leave by allowing new parents to use a portion of their future Social Security benefits after the birth or adoption of a child. Specifically, the bill provides parents the flexibility to use their benefits in a way that works best for their household. Many parents, especially those with low incomes, will be able to finance three months of leave or more under the New Parents Act. A one pager of the bill is available here.
A lightly edited partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below:
Rubio: “Today is an opportunity to reintroduce our paid family leave bill. Congresswoman Wagner and I introduced one last summer. But now we have a chance to come back with new partners and some tweeks. And we want to thank Senator Romney and Congressman Crenshaw for joining us and for their key leadership on what I believe, what we all believe, is a critical issue for the 21st century.
Social Security is perhaps the most enduring domestic program enacted, certainly in the last 100 years and perhaps in American history. I believe that for one simple reason, earned security, Social Security says if you work hard in this country you’ll be ensured against the insecurity that any of us could encounter, like poverty and old age, or disability during your working career.
“In the 21st century we should recognize that have new sources of insecurity and an even more fundamental risk, which is financial insecurity when you start a family. Working parents today are often trapped in a series of no-win situations. You choose to have one parent stay at home and you can’t afford the one house close to your place of work or possibly can’t afford to buy a home for your family at all. Have both parents work and watch child care costs cancel out most of at least one of your two incomes. Take time off from work right after having a new child, only to spend less time with them for the rest of their childhood because you need a second job to pay off the debt from your unpaid parental leave. So today we are proposing a change to Social Security to apply it to the challenges of our time.
“Our proposal would let new parents pull forward a portion of their Social Security benefits for one, two or three months of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. In exchange parents can either choose to delay their retirement by about six months per child or they have the option of receiving a reduced Social Security benefit during the first five years of retirement at an equal size. For example, the projected normal retirement age increase would be, under current conditions, two months for every one month of paid leave benefit amount taken. That is about one percent of future Social Security benefit. And again, it is an option, no one would be required to do this. Consider the example of two parents, one an electrician and the other a teacher, they both earn the national median income for their jobs, about $40,000 per year. Under the plan we are proposing today, if one parent took two weeks off from work at 100 percent of his or her income, then the other parent could afford to take two months off at 120 percent of their income, or three months off at 80 percent of their income.
“Importantly, our proposal offers maximum flexibility so that families can determine what type of leave works best for them. Under our proposal, the benefit would be transferable between the parents in the household and available to working and stay-at-home moms and dads alike. Our proposal would enact paid family leave in America without increasing taxes, without placing new mandates on small businesses which would harm young, working parents we aim to help.
We hope this plan will help advance the cause of pro-family and pro-worker reforms and we urge our colleagues to consider it.”

“Right now parents have no options. Basically most Americans cannot afford to go two weeks without a paycheck, three weeks without a paycheck, much less three months. And their only other option is to either A) not have children or B) go on public assistance or run up huge amounts of debt. So everyone will have a choice to make and they’ll have to examine it and decide whether it makes sense for them or not. And as far as whether it should become something that’s broadly accepted, this does nothing to impede the private sectors ability to provide this benefit to their employees. The irony is if you make $800,000 a year on Wall Street you have it. If you make $40,000 somewhere else you probably do not. So it’s the people who need it the most who are the least likely to have it. But ultimately our job here is to make things better, and I would say some people may choose not to take this option, but it is certainly better than having no option at all which is what they have today. And so in our view it makes things better than it is now.”

“I would imagine most parents would want as much time as they can get. But right now for them the time is zero, at least not without losing a paycheck, and most can’t afford it. And I think the one thing that brought me to this issue is actually knowing people, and I think Congressman Crenshaw mentioned that as part of a generational situation, when you actually know people who have had to make this choice and see the agonizing limited options they have before them today. It compels you to understand that we have a social insecurity cause in our 21st century. Social Security was created at a time when the primary insecurity that when people retired there was nothing there to help them and you had large numbers of senior citizens living in abject poverty. And that remains something we are concerned about but there’s an additional insecurity that exists today that perhaps did not exist 50, 60, 80 years ago. And that is young families who at the birth of a child are left with the option of either not having a child at all, or facing having to take on debt, and/or going on public assistance as a result of this. This is not designed to make the world perfect. It’s designed to make the world better than it is today for millions Americans who are having to make that very difficult choice right now.”