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ASTON, Pa. — Donald Trump, in softer tones than he normally uses, on Tuesday unveiled several policy proposals for lowering child-care costs that were crafted in part by his eldest daughter, Ivanka, including a plan to guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave that marks a striking departure from GOP orthodoxy.
[Editor's note: This article is from September. See more on Trump's promises here.]
Conservative Republicans, in particular, have long seen a mandated expansion of the social safety net as anathema to their attempts to shrink government spending and give companies more control over their leave policies.
In a speech here, the Republican presidential nominee proposed ensuring six weeks of paid maternity leave to mothers who do not already receive leave from their employer.
"We need working mothers to be fairly compensated for their work, and to have access to affordable, quality child care for their kids," said Trump, who appeared determined to show off a more sensitive side than most are accustomed to seeing from him. He used a subdued delivery that contrasted with his tendency at larger rallies to raise his voice. After his speech, he held up a baby in the crowd.
Campaign officials said the maternity leave program wouldn't cost taxpayers anything more; instead, it would be financed through savings achieved by eliminating fraud in the unemployment insurance program. The plan would apply to mothers and would not be transferable to fathers.
Trump also laid out specific plans for enabling parents to deduct the cost of child-care expenses from their income taxes. Trump first mentioned allowing parents to “fully deduct” expenses last month when he announced his economic agenda in Detroit. Some of these expenses are already deductible under the law.
A fact sheet released by the Trump campaign proposed to "rewrite the tax code to allow working parents to deduct from their income taxes child care expenses for up to four children and elderly dependents.”
That deduction would be capped at the “average cost of care” in the state of residence, and it would not be available to individuals earning more than $250,000 or a couple earning more than $500,000.
Ivanka Trump introduced her father here in Aston, marking her formal return to the campaign trail weeks after she introduced him at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. The 34-year-old is a high-ranking executive at the Trump Organization and the mother of three young children. Her husband, investor Jared Kushner, has become an influential adviser to his father-in-law.
She said that she was "grateful" for the means to raise her three children and also pursue a career. Many women don't have that luxury, she added.
"This must change. As a society we need to create policies that champion all parents, enabling the American family to thrive," said Ivanka Trump.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid family leave. Responding to Trump's maternity leave proposal, Clinton's senior adviser for policy Maya Harris said that by focusing solely on leave policies that benefit women, Trump may actually be hurting their cause, contributing to the attrition of women from the workplace after childbirth and the gender pay gap.
"We’re not living in a 'Mad Men' era anymore where only women are taking care of infants," Harris said. "It's just completely unserious."
At the start of his speech, Trump was joined onstage by several women Republican members of Congress.
"This is a family issue," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). "We know men always want more money. What do women want? More time. And we are thrilled to finally have a president of the United States who is going to put the focus on working with women to make certain you can achieve your American dream."
Trump thanked Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. House.
Also included in Trump's Tuesday’s proposals: additional spending rebates through the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanded deduction opportunities for stay-at-home parents, and revised federal savings accounts to set aside funds for child development and educational needs.
Before Trump gave his speech, he participated in a more intimate roundtable discussion.
According to Trump aides, Ivanka Trump has encouraged her father for weeks to detail policies that would appeal to parents who feel overburdened or underserved by existing programs, following up on the theme that coursed through her remarks at the convention.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who has grown close with Ivanka, also played a role in making child-care policy a priority, with an eye toward winning over female voters in places such as the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs, the aides said.
Trump won some of his loudest applause lines when he mentioned Clinton's recent comment that half of his supporters are a "basket of deplorables."
"While my opponent slanders you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you, hard-working American Patriots who love your country," said Trump.
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Costa reported from Washington. Abby Phillip contributed.