Bill Clinton returned to the White House on Thursday to discuss what the country learned three decades after he signed the country’s family and medical leave law, using his distinctive storytelling style and wonkiness.
The 42nd president, who has been out of office for more than 20 years, initially appeared a touch rusty as he searched through the documents on the podium to find his speech. However, he soon got his footing and began mentioning individuals, providing facts, and telling stories of the families whose lives had been impacted by the law.
He said, “We need more stories. Never process. Stories.” Clinton argued for Congress to support President Joe Biden’s quest to go farther and get paid leave written into federal law in his speech only days before Sunday’s 30th anniversary of his landmark Family and Medical Leave Act legislation.
One of the most significant pieces of legislation Clinton passed during his eight years in office offered many American workers up to 12 unpaid weeks off to recuperate from serious illnesses, give birth, or care for ailing family members. However, Clinton, who signed the bill barely two weeks into his term as president, said it was time to go further and provide American workers with paid leave to connect with a new kid or take care of their loved ones.
According to Clinton, many issues still exist without paid leave. Clinton paid homage to former senator Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut who fought for the bill for many years. He quoted German philosopher Max Weber, who described politics as “the forceful and gradual boring of hardboards,” in awe of the legislators who forced the measure through, many of whom were there on Thursday.
The family leave act is still brought up to me more often than any other specific action I did as president, according to Clinton, even after all these years.
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Paid leave for employees in 2021 was an issue that Biden championed but could not secure support for. He ratified a directive on Thursday requesting that heads of federal agencies support providing unpaid family and medical leave to federal employees during their first year of employment. The legislation doesn’t grant employees the right to unpaid leave until after a year of employment.
The president has also instructed the OPM to make suggestions on how to create regulations allowing employees to take paid and unpaid time off to seek safety or recover from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The family leave law does not apply in certain circumstances.
Early in 2021, as part of a significant $3.5 trillion social investment plan, Biden advocated significantly increasing the family leaves statute to grant workers up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness leave and to assure that workers receive three days of bereavement leave annually.
According to his proposal, employees would receive up to $4,000 monthly and have at least two-thirds of their typical weekly wages replaced. Over ten years, the White House anticipated the program would cost more than $225 billion.
The scaled-back climate and health care measure that Biden signed into law in August didn’t include paid family leave. On Thursday, Biden declared that he was still hopeful of obtaining paid vacation.
Biden added, “No American should ever have to choose between a wage and caring for a family member or taking care of themselves. The United States is one of the few developed countries that does not guarantee paid leave to workers.
Clinton recalled tales of the profound effect the family leave act has had on Americans as senior senators and White House personnel warmly welcomed her.
He claimed that shortly after leaving office in 2001, he was approached by a flight attendant who expressed her ambivalence over his tenure in office but wanted him to know how important the law had been for her family as both of her parents were simultaneously facing end-of-life diseases. He noted that she claimed that without the employment safeguards offered by the law, she would not have been able to be there for her parents as they approached the end of their life.
Clinton recalled the woman saying to him, “I just wanted to tell you, I’ve heard all these politicians give lectures about family values.” She said, ‘I know… how your parents’ die is an essential family value,’ the speaker said. It was magnificent.
On Wednesday, a group of Democratic lawmakers declared they would reintroduce legislation to create paid family leave and make other changes to the law.
President Joe Biden hosted former President Bill Clinton at an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.https://t.co/vQsilAE8zk
— Bloomberg Government (@BGOV) February 3, 2023
But with Republicans now in charge of the House, it will be difficult for Biden to pass legislation establishing a paid leave program. Republican lawmakers have been approached about revising the federal statute, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
To determine if paid leave could be implemented with the Republican House, she stated, “we are going to examine what areas of the agreement are in both the House and Senate.” “I’m confident that we can accomplish something as a team. Said, I’m not yet sure what it is.
A sizable portion of the American labor force is exempt from the federal leave statute. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a group that supports updating the law, about 44% of workers are not eligible for FMLA-supported leave because they work for small employers exempt from the law, don’t put in enough hours, haven’t been with their employer long enough to qualify, or both. According to the organization, FMLA will be used by up to 15 million employees by 2022.