White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond on Sunday maintained that the Biden administration is still “going to the mat” to have paid leave included in the Build Back Better plan, despite the provision’s omission from the White House’s reconciliation framework amid centrist Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) opposition.
During an interview on CBS, Richmond was asked to respond to President Biden’s remark to reporters on Saturday saying that “time will tell” whether four weeks of paid leave ends up in the reconciliation package.
Richmond stressed that the White House’s framework contains provisions that the President believes has the support of all 50 Democratic senators.
“And so community college didn’t make it. He cares about community colleges,” Richmond said. “So what’s more important is what’s in the plan, what’s not in the plan, and right now paid medical leave is in.”
Richmond then emphasized that the White House views paid family and paid medical leave as a “value proposition.”
“We know what families go through in this country when children and family members get sick. The President knows it personally. I know it personally. The administration knows it personally,” Richmond said. “We are for paid medical and family leave, and that’s why you see the President bringing so many senators down to the White House to make sure that it can stay in in the Senate. But right now, it does not have 50 votes in the Senate.”
Richmond went on to make clear that the White House has “always gone to the mat” for paid leave.
Despite Manchin’s refusal to commit to supporting paid leave in BBB, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been hard at work to come to an agreement with the centrist senator on the provision. However, Manchin has argued that the reconciliation bill is not the place for paid leave, claimed that the Senate parliamentarian is the one standing in the way of the proposal, that the provision should mandate work requirements and that he can’t back it in the BBB unless there is bipartisan support for it.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made clear in a letter to the caucus last week that she asked the House Ways and Means committee to include their family and medical paid leave legislation in a hearing that was held on the reconciliation text.
Pelosi’s public showing of support for the proposal in BBB was followed by Democratic leaders’ announcement that four weeks of paid leave was re-attached to the measure.
The new proposal falls short of the 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave each year for every worker that was originally proposed. But as Democrats work to shave down the topline of the reconciliation package to appease Sens. Manchin and Krysten Sinema’s demands for a lower price tag, the White House began floating a four-week proposal last month that would target lower-income workers and expire after 3-4 years.
Watch Richmond’s remarks below: