Gender and Sexuality Column

Thompson: Trump should keep campaign promise and get on board with Gillibrand’s paid family leave plan

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which she has promoted since 2013.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) made a bill and checked it twice, and is now waiting to find out if Congress is naughty or nice when it comes to paid family leave.

Gillibrand recently reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act in an effort to alleviate some of the burdens on working-class families in the United States, especially those in need of paid time away from their careers.

The recent bill is the third version of the FAMILY Act, which Gillibrand has promoted since 2013, and is one way the fiercely feminist senator is putting pressure on President Donald Trump to keep the promises of his campaign.

Trump — with motivation from his daughter, Ivanka — has expressed interest in constructing a plan for working families to take paid time off work to care for a newborn child, an ill relative or an elderly parent.

Considering the U.S. is the only modern industrialized country without some form of paid family leave, Gillibrand’s proposed legislation is a breath of fresh air to working families across the nation. If passed, the bill could alleviate some of the serious economic consequences that arise from starting a family or caring for sick and elderly family members.

Gillibrand said during the unveiling of the proposal that working Americans should not have to choose between earning a paycheck and caring for their families, but added that this is “a very real choice” that parents and other relatives must make on behalf of their families, according to CNN Money.

Gillibrand, who has been a member of the Senate since 2009, has defined her political career on a platform for equal opportunity and women’s issues, including paid family leave and combating sexual assault in the military. These features of her role as senator have given her a deserved reputation as the empowered, go-getter woman she is.

“One of the defining characteristics of Gillibrand is that she just keeps at it,” said Kristi Andersen, a professor emeritus of political science at Syracuse University. “She’s gotten a lot of people who weren’t really sympathetic with her in Congress to come along by just being persistent and persuasive, and that speaks volumes.”

But despite Gillibrand’s abilities to persuade her colleagues on policy, a major point of contention within the FAMILY Act bill is whether the Republican-dominated Washington apparatus will go forward in promoting the legislation through the House and Senate. Trump spoke openly about the need for this legislation to be on the books, but it’s uncertain whether he can walk the walk in making a comprehensive push for paid family leave.

The Democrats’ family leave proposal is both political and personal, said Corri Zoli, a research assistant professor of political science at SU. Zoli added that Gillibrand’s motive is to start conversations within Congress to work toward partisanship, which will benefit American families.

“I think what Sen. Gillibrand is doing is making a political calculus that if this is going to be on the table again and the president is trying to bring this legislation, then let’s bring this into our bill,” Zoli said. “It’s a competing legislation, so at the very least I think she wants to spark some debate in Congress to actually move forward on this policy.”

Moving forward on paid family leave is one way Trump can fulfill his campaign promise of being the representative of the working-class, disenfranchised families across the U.S. If he truly cares about fulfilling that promise, maybe he’ll spend a little less time in Mar-a-Lago and a little more time tending to one of the topics he identified as a concern affecting Americans.

One thing is for sure: The holes Trump should be paying attention to right now are not the 18 on the green, but those in the American paid family leave program.

Kelsey Thompson is a sophomore magazine journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at katho101@syr.edu.

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