WASHINGTON -- The White House is inviting lawmakers to its first summit on paid family leave and childcare affordability next month in an effort to increase momentum for Ivanka Trump's signature issues.
Invitations to the half-day Dec. 12 event at the White House were expected to be sent this week to lawmakers and advocates for those policies, White House aides told McClatchy.
Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to President Donald Trump and his daughter, who has traveled around the country talking about both issues, was expected to discuss what she has heard from her conversations at the gathering, White House aides said.
Proposals guaranteeing paid parental leave for men and women have been gaining traction among Republicans over the past three years. The White House says it is open to any proposal on this issue that can move forward, including a bipartisan proposal in the Senate that would give new and adoptive parents up to $5,000 in compensation for missed wages.
"Never before has this issue had so much support and momentum, on both sides of the aisle," Ivanka Trump told McClatchy.
The federal government currently only requires that companies offer unpaid leave to take care of newborn babies, newly adopted children and ill family members. White House aides say that they are encouraged by increased GOP engagement on the issue.
"Since President Trump's inauguration, the question has finally turned from 'should Paid Family Leave be on the table' to 'what is the best Paid Family Leave policy for America's families?'" Ivanka Trump said.
President Trump has included paid family leave proposals in every one of his administration's budgets and has listed it as a priority in his annual address to Congress.
"Republicans know that American families are the true backbone of America," President Trump said on Sept. 13. "That is why I was the first president to propose nationwide paid family leave in my budget. Very important."
His daughter has traveled around the country advocating for a federal program and has met with more than 60 legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, on the issue, White House aides said.
Several proposals have been introduced on Capitol Hill but Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on the mechanism for paid leave.
A bipartisan bill in the Senate sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona would reduce participating parents' annual child tax credit by $500 for 10 years to pay for the $5,000 benefit the legislation guarantees they will receive up front.
Cassidy and Sinema announced the proposal in July. The Republican senator's office told McClatchy they plan to introduce a bill in the next few weeks, possibly before the White House summit.
"Passing legislation requires bipartisan support. Senator Sinema and I have the only plan with support on both sides of the aisle," Cassidy said. "We will keep building support so that American families can get the help they need to care for their baby."
Sinema's office said a companion bill would be announced in the House where the senator has been building bipartisan support for the effort among her former colleagues.
Ivanka Trump has been courting lawmakers from both parties in both chambers. White House aides said she has met with members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Cassidy is a member, and the House Ways and Means Committee.
"Democrats want to work with the administration and congressional Republicans on this issue, but cannot support approaches that would leave out most of the middle class or penalize workers who need to take leave by cutting their child tax credits or Social Security benefits," Erin Hatch, a spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, said.
Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, has not discussed paid family leave with Ivanka Trump, she said.
"The chairman has not heard from the Senate or the administration on paid family leave and is working on developing a solution here in the House," Hatch said.
The House Ways and Means Committee is considering, but has not voted on, a mainly Democratic bill known as the FAMILY Act, put forward by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. It is sponsored in the Senate by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.
The FAMILY Act bill, which guarantees 12 weeks of paid leave, offers workers up to $4,000 a month. The lawmakers propose to pay for it with a 0.2% tax on wages. They estimate the program would cost $4 a week per worker on average and costs would be shared by companies and their employees.
White House aides said the administration is open to any of the paid family leave proposals currently circulating on Capitol Hill. "Nothing is off the table from the White House," one aide said.
Gillibrand's office confirmed that the senator and her staff had met with Ivanka Trump.
"The senator is hopeful that the White House will start taking a real interest in moving forward on an effective paid family leave proposal to help all workers," a Gillibrand spokeswoman said.
Sen. Mitt Romney has also introduced paid leave legislation alongside fellow Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Michigan and Rep. Ann Wagnor of Missouri.
Their bill would allow parents to access their Social Security benefits early to offset missed wages while on family leave. That effort has not attracted Democratic support.
Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told McClatchy: "I'm happy to work with Republicans, including those in the White House, to make paid family leave a reality. Thus far, however, despite positive rhetoric, I've yet to see many on the Republican side make this a priority."
The White House said it is open to any of the paid family leave proposals currently circulating on Capitol Hill and just wants the issue to move forward. "Much of anything is better than zero weeks (paid) right now. So that's why nothing is off the table," one aide said.
"We're coming up against an election. It becomes really hard to get things done," another White House aide said. "We're hopeful that they will come together soon."
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