Following dissent from Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), paid family and medical leave are likely off the table for the multi-trillion-dollar spending bill. Manchin's opposition came as a surprise and angered some of his lawmaking colleagues.
Why is Manchin against paid leave, and will his opposition be enough to officially cut it from the spending bill that's already lost so much?
Senator Joe Manchin opposes key part of spending bill—paid leave
The multi-faceted climate and social spending bill presented by President Biden has been under discussion for months. Along the way, key elements have been removed. Manchin thinks that paid leave should be the latest casualty.
Initially, Biden proposed a 12-week paid leave period for family and medical purposes as part of the package. Manchin didn't support that length of time, so Democrats trimmed it down to four weeks. Still, Manchin opposed it.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tried to find a compromise with Manchin, but her efforts failed. Manchin opposes paid leave altogether.
Democrats could toss paid leave altogether
Without Manchin's support, congressional Democrats won't be able to pass the long-stalled spending package. That's why they will likely cut paid leave out of the equation and satisfy Manchin's opposition.
Manchin is standing firm in his opposition.
On Oct. 27, Manchin responded to questions about his flexibility regarding paid leave. He said, "I just can't do it."
That steadfastness is frustrating some of his peers. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said about the matter, "We're not going to let one man tell all the women in this country that they can't have paid leave."
There are only six countries globally that don't offer a form of national paid leave, and the U.S. is one of them. Manchin, it seems, wants to keep it that way.
Why Manchin is really against paid leave
According to Manchin, the paid leave element of the overall climate and social spending package is a no-go.
"To expand social programs when you have trust funds that aren't solvent, they're going insolvent. I can't explain that. It doesn't make sense to me. I want to work with everyone as long as we can start paying for things. That's all. I can't put this burden on my grandchildren. I've got 10 grandchildren," he said.
In short, the spending bill is just too expensive for Manchin's liking, and the paid leave program is the most disposable element in his eyes.
Also, Manchin told reporters, "To put this into a reconciliation bill—it’s a major policy—is not the place to do it." This suggests that Manchin would consider paid leave as a standalone program or a part of a smaller package. However, it's hard to say whether he would enact that support when the time comes.
Despite the fact that Manchin is a Democrat, he comes from a red state. West Virginians overwhelmingly voted for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election (he achieved 68.62 percent of the popular vote in the state). Domestic spending is often considered a liberal move. Because of this, Manchin might be trying to market himself as a conservative-leaning Democrat to keep his state constituents on his side.