Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) told Breitbart News about his paid family leave bill, the Cradle Act, contending that the Republican Party should be the party of “protecting not only the family but also the institutions of civil society.”
Lee, along with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), introduced the Cradle Act earlier in March, which would allow parents to obtain one, two, or three months of leave by postponing their Social Security benefits by two, four, or six months. The two senators contended that the bill would allow every new mom and dad the flexibility to raise their newborn during the critical first weeks of child-rearing without creating a government program, adding to the national deficit, or raising taxes.
The Utah conservative contended that the legislation, in comparison to other proposals, is revenue-neutral, optional, and flexible for those who decide to opt into the program. For example, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) paid family leave proposal would require an increase in the payroll tax.
Lee told Breitbart News that this legislation serves as part of his long-standing belief that the Republican Party should uphold and protect the family and civil society.
Lee said, “I’ve long believed that the Republican Party should be the party of protecting not only the family but also the institutions of civil society.”
The senators’ legislation arises as a growing coalition of Republicans, including Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a doctor and the Senate’s foremost expert on health care; Marco Rubio (R-FL); Todd Young (R-IN); and White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump have forged a pathway forward on paid family leave.
In President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, the president pushed for bipartisan deals on paid family leave.
“I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave—so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child,” Trump said in his State of the Union address.
Although the senators introduced the legislation only two weeks ago, Lee said that many Republicans and Democrats expressed interest in the bill.
“There’s been a lot of interest, a lot of people asking questions, and we got a number of Republicans looking at it, and some Democrats looking at it as well. I’m hopeful that we’ll get some Democrat co-sponsorship, and that we’ll continue to add support,” Lee said.
Polling from the PL+US Fund organization found that Americans highly approved of paid family leave; a poll showed that 94 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans, and 83 percent of Independents support some form of paid family leave. Several major companies such as Deloitte, IBM, Microsoft Corporation, General Electric, and Levi Strauss & Co., among other companies, support the policy too.
Lee said that free markets and civil society serve as the “twin pillars” of American strength, and governments can remove impediments to families prospering across the country.
Lee said, “That really is the source of our strength. Free markets and institutions of civil society are the twin pillars of a thriving civilization, and you have to have both. The trouble is, governments can’t create free market, and they definitely can’t create institutions of civil society, or when they try to pretend to do so, sometimes they just mess things up. They can destroy them and can weaken them, and when you weaken them, they’re easily restored; it’s like a culture. It’s a culture that cannot simply be created out of nothing,” Lee said. “Our job is to make sure that the government isn’t impeding free markets or civil society to where it’s weakening them and instead allow them to flourish.”
Lee contended that he does not view this legislation as creating a new entitlement or government program, but rather allowing Americans to tap into the money they pay into Social Security to allow them to benefit their family.
The Utah Republican said, “I struggle with calling it paid family leave partly for this reason: I see the Cradle Act as being something that gives parents more flexibility in deciding how to spend their own money. Meaning, by the time someone has a child, typically they have been paying into this Social Security system for years, they will still be paying into the Social Security system for many decades to come. They won’t have access to that money during most of their lives, for many decades even though it’s their money.”
“They [families] ought to have the choice, the option, if they so choose of taking a few weeks, one, two, or three months of Social Security benefits at the time they have a child, at the time of the birth of a child or time of an adopted child, in order to acquaint them with that child in exchange for a delay in their Social Security retirement date,” Lee continued. “I think a lot would take it, but it’s their money. In that sense, it’s just an expanded option for what they do with their Social Security money.”
The Utah conservative said, “I go out my way not to create entitlement programs that try to dictate particular behaviors regarding child-rearing, and it’s not the government’s job to incentivize you to have kids or not have kids. It’s just not our government’s business, but the government certainly should not be disincentivizing it and certainly shouldn’t be punishing you for doing that. I’ve been saying for years that in some ways our tax code coupled with our senior entitlement program, Social Security, and Medicare can have a tendency to punish parenthood. The pay-as-you-go nature of them results in some inequities towards parents; that’s why I’ve pushed to increase the child tax credit in order to at least partially offset the parent tax penalty.”
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.