D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE D.C. Council is in a headlong rush to pass by year’s end a paid family leave program for people who work in the city. Details of the bill are still being hammered out and have yet to be disclosed. The bill’s authors seem to have little concern about basic issues such as affordability, workability or impact on jobs and businesses. Instead, what appears to matter most to some council members is the chance to burnish their progressive bona fides by claiming bragging rights to the most extravagant program in the country.

Giving working families paid time off to tend to a newborn baby or an ailing parent is desirable public policy, and the United States needs to join the rest of the modern world in recognizing that. It is clear, though, that the D.C. proposal could use more thought and debate. Officials should consider whether it makes sense for the District to act unilaterally when both presidential candidates have said they back a national program.

The issue was the subject of a testy exchange last week between Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who has been working for months in secret to shape a bill. Mr. Mendelson said he plans to give the city’s chief financial officer a draft on Nov. 1 for review of its fiscal impact, but he won’t share it with the mayor or the public until it is brought up for a council vote. Considering that the city is talking about spending $300 million to $400 million annually and establishing a whole new government bureaucracy to administer the program, one would hope to see some transparency, collaboration and thoughtful deliberation.

When a proposal for paid leave was unveiled a year ago, we expressed doubts about the wisdom of imposing a significant new tax on businesses that already have seen the costs of operating in D.C. go up because of legislative mandates for increases in the minimum wage and new recordkeeping requirements. We also wondered why the District would entertain the idea of using funds to benefit Maryland and Virginia residents who comprise the bulk of the D.C. workforce and already enjoy the use of city services without paying taxes to the District. There’s also the question, pointedly raised by Ms. Bowser, about whether a leave program should be the highest priority at a time when the city needs more affordable housing and improvements in infrastructure, including Metro.

When the District overhauled its tax code, an endeavor similar in complexity to designing a leave program, it appointed a commission of experts and major stakeholders that undertook careful study and debate. Now the council has rejected that approach and instead taken its marching orders from advocates who want to make a political point with standards that lead the nation in generosity. That kind of point-scoring could be costly to low-income workers in the District if companies decide to relocate to Maryland or Virginia rather than stay in a city where they are continually asked to take on new burdens.

Mr. Mendelson thinks he will be able to win passage for his bill because, as he said after his set-to with the mayor, it’s “so popular that in the end those who don’t like it are going to come around.” We urge the council to act responsibly and make popularity only one of the criteria they consider.