July 19, 2013 — House Democrats on Thursday launched a new economic agenda aimed at strengthening opportunities for women, including a proposal to guarantee paid maternity leave for many workers, The Hill reports.
Rep. Donna Edwards' (D-Md.) proposal would alter the Family and Medical Leave Act to guarantee paid leave for childbirth, as well as caring for a child or seriously ill family member. FMLA already provides job-protected leave but does not require employers to pay employees during their time off.
Edwards said, "These women who are so deeply woven in the economic fabric of our country should also have the benefit of knowing that they would be able to take paid leave."
The new agenda also includes a proposal by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) that aims to make child care more affordable by expanding the child care tax credit, bolstering programs under Head Start and increasing funding for the training of childcare workers.
A central part of the agenda is the Paycheck Fairness Act. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would discourage pay discrimination by better enabling workers to share their wage information and giving employees more tools to address gender-based wage discrepancies.
Prospects for Legislation
According to The Hill, the legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House.
However, Democrats hope the proposals will further distinguish them from conservatives on women's issues. Attacking Republicans on reproductive health issues helped propel Democratic victories in last year's elections, and Democrats would like to extend a similar tactic to economic issues, The Hill reports.
In announcing the campaign outside the Capitol, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "It is about unleashing the power of our nation's women and in doing so strengthening the middle class, the backbone of our democracy" (Lillis, The Hill, 7/18).