WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump promised Thursday to expand child care and time-off options for working moms and dads confronted with high costs and lack of access to quality care, saying in his administration “we get it done.”
Trump spoke at the White House as legislation to grant federal workers, both military and civilian, 12 weeks of paid parental leave edged closer to becoming law.
Building on that, Trump said at a White House summit on the issue that “we now have a historic opportunity to enact long overdue reforms. It's time to pass paid family leave and expand access to quality” affordable child care for those not employed by the federal government.
Trump, who has just over a year left in his term, added: “We're going to get it done."'
Three months of paid leave for federal workers is included in a massive, annual defense policy bill that House lawmakers passed Wednesday and sent to the Senate. Trump has said he will sign it into law.
Service members are already eligible for paid parental leave but how much time off they can take depends on which branch of the military they are in. The bill Trump is expected to sign would provide all service members with three months of paid parental leave.
Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser, pointed to that agreement as a model for corporate America and the rest of private industry.
"As the country's largest employer, we must lead by example, and after decades, are finally doing so,” said Ivanka Trump, who has lobbied lawmakers on child care and paid leave issues since joining her father's White House in 2017.
President Trump said the administration also wants to make quality, affordable child care more accessible. He noted that he had agreed to spend more on child care block grants that go to states to help low-income families, and he has doubled the federal child tax credit to $2,000.
One in four women go back to work within two weeks of giving birth because they can't afford to lose the pay or the job, according to the White House.
The White House also outlined its principles for child care legislation. They include reauthorizing the child care block grants, which are set to expire in the 2021 budget year; providing flexibility; and increasing options, by eliminating regulations. Other principles include making quality child care more available and addressing a shortage among child-care workers.
Various proposals are circulating in Congress. The White House has not come out in support of a particular plan.
Lawmakers sponsoring child care and paid leave legislation participated in panel discussions before Trump spoke and agreed that it is important that new parents have time to bond with and/or breastfeed their newborn or newly adopted babies, citing health and societal benefits from doing so.
Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., offered a dad's perspective.
The first-term lawmaker said his wife found out she was expecting the day after he launched his campaign for Congress. Cunningham said she gave birth on a Saturday following a complicated pregnancy, and he went back to work on Monday because he was employed by a small law firm.
“That's the reality for a lot of people," Cunningham said, adding that he regretted not being home more during those first weeks to support his wife and bond with his now nearly 2-year-old son.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., called it a "shame" that the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn't guarantee workers paid family leave.