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Eye Opener: Paid Parental Leave Clears the House

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! Federal employees are one step closer to getting four weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child as House lawmakers approved the long-sought measure last night mostly along party lines.

"As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government should offer competitive benefits to those already offered in the private sector," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last night. "Family-friendly practices help improve children’s health and development; they also reduce turnover."

“Today we show that this Congress doesn’t just talk about family values -- it values families," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the bill's lead sponsor. "As more families are relying on just one paycheck in these times, we can’t afford not to help them in this way."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) led Republican and conservative opposition to the bill, accusing Democrats of passing on billions of dollars in associated costs.

"While Democrats talk about helping children, they can’t help themselves from piling a massive Federal debt onto their future," he said.

The Post's Joe Davidson notes today that Issa attempted to bolster opposition by comparing the bill to similar policies in Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

"This isn't the first time Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has used rather creative arguments against giving Frankie and Flo Fed a benefit similar to those found in 168 countries and 75 percent of the Fortune 100 companies.

"Last month, when the committee approved the legislation, Issa warned that Frankie and Flo could stock up on children, year after year, to get those four weeks of paid time. Workers 'could have one adoption or one foster child per year, resulting in every year you get a new foster child, every year the husband and wife if they are both federal workers would take four weeks off with pay, because they have simply taken in a new foster child,' he said then."

President Obama supports the measure and is expected to sign it if approved by the Senate.

Thoughts? Leave them in the comments section below.

Thank You, Eric Pianin: It's a bittersweet day in Eye world as Eric Pianin, the creator of The Federal Eye, departs The Washington Post today after an illustrious 28-year career. Eric has covered it all: from Washington, D.C. politics, the environment, countless congressional budget fights, two government shutdowns and one presidential impeachment. He's most recently guided The Post's relaunch of The Fed Page, working with yours truly, the great Al Kamen and Joe Davidson and countless other colleagues to refocus our attention on the bureaucratic bumps and grinds of Washington. Eric is a class act, a true gentleman and The Eye thanks him a million times over for his support, encouragement, wise counsel and friendship.

Cabinet and Staff News: What do Canada, Mexico, Haiti and South Africa have in common?: They have new U.S. ambassadors. An East Wing shakeup! Who advised Obama on the Cairo speech? Ex-Google official's new administration job wrankles some. (Love the word "wrankle," btw). Is George Mitchell headed to Damascus? The new FDA chief likes the big food safety bill. White House set to appoint a Pay Czar. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visits Boston and Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari tours Racine County, Wis. today as part of the cabinet's economic recovery tour.

FAA Could Close 20 Weather Offices: The government got one step closer yesterday to closing weather offices at 20 regional air traffic control centers around the country and consolidating at two offices in Maryland and Missouri.

Interference at the Library of Congress?: Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) accuses top officials at the Library of Congress of interfering with investigations conducted by its independent watchdogs and for frequently admonishing investigators for the tone and focus of their investigations.

IRS Weighs New Rules on Tax Preparers: The commissioner wants better leverage to make sure tax preparers act ethically, not only to improve enforcement, but also to ensure that taxpayers get quality help in preparing their returns.

EPA Rethinks Backing of Ground-Up Tires for Playgrounds: Agency scientists worry they don't have enough information about potential health risks from chemicals in the rubber material.

Background Checks Blocked at NASA Lab: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit let stand a 2008 decision that blocked extensive background checks for “low-risk” contract workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena

Tracking Jobs Created Under Recovery Act Could be Tricky: Ed DeSeve, special adviser to the president and the Office of Management and Budget for implementing the Recovery Act, said on Thursday that it will be up to fund recipients to estimate the number of jobs created or saved.

HUD Revises Rules for Stimulus Money: They've lowered the threshold that the nation's public housing agencies must meet to get some of the stimulus money set aside for new roofing, plumbing and other renovations.

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 5, 2009; 6:02 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Rep. Darrell Issa is an idiot--does he have children? Did he have to care for them? Anyone with children know that it is a life long committment and that it is hard work. Why would anyone keep having children just to get 4 weeks off from work?

"...benefit similar to those found in 168 countries and 75 percent of the Fortune 100 companies." Most other countries give a lot more leave to new parents--my friend in the UK got 4 months of leave when her son was born and most companies give 6 to 8 weeks of leave so this benefit is a step in the right direction but not equal.

Posted by: SilverSpring2 | June 5, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I am a devoted Democrat that is going to have to break from my party on this one. I disagree with this bill, especially at this time. As a COO who researches, writes, and implements labor policy the number one question I consider each and every time is 'What precedent is this setting?". I think this legislation is setting a precedent that will very likely become a slippery slope in the future with far reaching implications to businesses and our economy (which I need not remind you has been severely crippled over the past 10 months).

Furthermore, with millions of American's continuing to loose their jobs and millions more taking pay cuts, reduction in benefits, etc., I think it is terribly irresponsible for the Federal Government to be increasing benefits for its workforce.

Posted by: MatthewKessler | June 5, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

As a struggling business owner with dedicated employees that pray every night that the economy will improve and their jobs will continue and that their sharing of the burden of survival by taking pay cuts will be sufficient, I greatly fear that the runaway spending and rapidly increasing burden of wasteful spending and highly paid and impressively benefitted government workers will be a burden that we cannot carry. Remember that most workers work for small businesses that can not afford these solid gold benefits. The USA is out of money and in debt. Any other business would be cutting payroll and benefits to survive.

Well intended but unfunded benfits during a time of high unemployment is irresponsible.

Posted by: sjones3 | June 5, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe that this is even being considered. Most employees are eligible for Voluntary Leave Transfer and get more than enough hours to cover any emergency. Now you want to pay them! The shift in thinking at the Government level is pathetic at best. Stop encouraging people to abuse the system - and yes, I know that that doesn't apply to everyone, but there are more who abuse it than those who don't. I am totally against moves such as this because it it my money that is covering them.

Posted by: pmaley | June 5, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

This is a fiscally irresponsible move by the federal government, but what else is new? And why give four weeks every year? Families don't have or adopt children every year, so why not just say four weeks off whenever the event occurs. Because, the plan is to get four paid weeks off every year for whatever reason. Remember, this was first sold as "we just want unpaid time off to care for our families." Now, here they are asking for paid time off, and they aren't finished yet.

Posted by: xcharliemoore | June 5, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I love how conservatives think their argument will carry more weight if, before making it, they say that they are actually a Democrat. It's pretty transparent.

What type of precedent is this setting? Firstly, the same precedent that most major companies in America already offer their employees. Secondly, a fantastic precedent that acknowledges the time mothers need to care for newborns. Anyone who has ever held a four week old child will realize just how ungenerous this benefit really is.

Posted by: ginniemae | June 5, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

A federal benefit that can only be used by a certain demographic, i.e, those of child bearing age? That's fair? Why single this group out? My last kid goes to college this Fall but I'm caring for aging parents. Please give me 4 weeks a year to attend to their increasing needs so that their remaining years are comfortable.

Posted by: DrFish | June 5, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

The gov't is not being fiscally responsible and has not a clue as to the reverberating effect of something like this. Stretching ... isn't this unfair to those who chose not to have children? Yet, we pay school taxes.
As a business owner, I (owner, risk taker, provider of jobs) I must live and die by my budget and the reality of my expenses. "The Gov't" is totally out of touch. Ms. Pelosi et al does not care about living within a budget, nor does she sign the weekly expense checks. Reality: many small businesses are teetering and many biz owners are seeing their incomes DEcrease while gov't is spending like mad ... with no concern or regard of the details of how it all gets paid back. I don't expect those who are not owners to understand this ... until more and more businesses fail and it is harder to find jobs ... and benefits. I so wish there were fewer politicians in the layers of gov't and more business owners who have a better pulse on fiscal responsibility.

Posted by: BJD55 | June 5, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

How many people would this actually affect? I don't have the time to pull up the stats at the moment, but the federal workforce is-- what? maybe 5% of the total workforce? And how many of them are of childbearing age? How many of THEM choose to have, or adopt, or foster a child each year?

Our federal workforce is aging. There have been many articles on that issue in the past year or two. Therefore, I conclude that the number of people who would receive this benefit is extremely low. Government expenses would be pretty miniscule. How much money did we waste on Bush's wars?

Our most precious resource is our children. As the mother of two young adults, neither of whom are in the federal workforce and neither of whom are planning to have a child within the next 5 years, I say that as a civilized country, we can't afford NOT to pass this bill.

Posted by: dcgrasso1 | June 5, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

After 9/11 the Department of Defense and the intelligence community began a massive hiring binge to address a host of new threats. A lot of those people hired were in their early 20s. 8 years on, these young people are having babies. Would you rather that the people who are keeping you safe quit their jobs, restrict their hours, or be financially compromised? If we're willing to give women in the military a paltry 6 weeks because they have valuable experience and skills worth retaining, wouldn't a measly 4 weeks to prevent talent flight from the rest of the government be worth it? If you think that the paid four weeks is expensive, you should look at what it costs to process a security clearance and train a new employee. It's much cheaper to keep the ones you have.

Posted by: heatherleaelliott | June 7, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I am a federal employee and I don't like this idea. I agree with those who wonder why this group is singled out for the benefit and not those caring for elderly parents or doing other important nurturing work. Prospective parents should save up their leave for a period of parental leave. They get a lot of leave, both sick leave and vacation. Also, while they are getting paid for adding to the world's bloated population, the rest of us will be left behind doing their jobs for them. Why not give me four weeks off to write the great American novel?

Posted by: Fiftythree | June 10, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

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