“I’ve urged Sen. Manchin that there are many things that we can do on a bipartisan basis. But they do not include a universal earned benefit. It does not include something that’s mandatory,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who’s doggedly trying to sway Manchin. Gillibrand maintains the only way to cover West Virginians with low incomes is “a universal mandatory benefit. And the only chance of ever covering them would be something we would do now during reconciliation.” Manchin sees things differently, saying this week he believes “there’s a bipartisan pathway forward.” Yet in interviews on Tuesday, Republicans said they’d prefer a far more limited approach than the House’s proposal, which would provide workers with four weeks of paid family and medical leave. And that’s assuming a GOP appetite to work on the policy exists at all. If Manchin succeeds in dropping the paid leave program, it would be a major blow to Democrats’ efforts to bring the U.S. in line with most other developed countries. Right now, America is the only wealthy nation without some form of paid leave at a national level. The House originally sought 12 weeks of paid leave, but the White House dropped it from its framework citing Manchin’s objections. House leadership then shoehorned a four-week version back into the bill before passing it, effectively punting the issue to the Senate. Now, Democrats are considering the possibility that their signature bill — confronting childcare, education, climate change and tax reform — could shirk a benefit most in the party think represents an obvious political win given its bipartisan popularity. And if the social spending bill sheds paid leave, it may head the way of elections reform. Manchin tried to recruit Republicans onto his compromise bills and ended up with only the support of Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on the Republican side, far short of the 10 needed to clear a bill through the Senate. “We passed unpaid leave when I first became a senator in 1993, and we were told that we would be able to get a paid leave policy bipartisan,” said Senate HELP Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “Here we are 30 years later, and we don’t have it. So I don’t know where the miracle is that as soon as we get [the social spending bill] passed, there’s going to be some bipartisan paid leave program.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), among the most amenable Republicans to working with Democrats, said she would essentially like to start back at the drawing board since Senate Democrats’ legislation isn’t going through the normal review process. “What we should do is go through the committee process and look at all the options, hear from the experts on what would make the biggest difference,” Collins said in an interview. The House-passed program would cost around $200 billion — in line with the $225 billion Biden initially proposed. It would cover all workers wishing to take paid time off to deal with the birth of a newborn, care for a family member or recover from an illness or injury, among other situations, beginning in 2024. Workers with average incomes would receive around two-thirds of their pay, whi . . . read the full article here.