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Duchess of Sussex calling: Meghan personally lobbies senators to push for paid family leave

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speaks Sept. 25 in New York.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speaks Sept. 25 in New York. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
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When Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s phone rang with a call from an unlisted number, she assumed it was just her fellow senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin III (D). It was not.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, had personally dialed the Republican senator’s phone to talk about paid family leave, a program for working families that is at risk of being cut out of President Biden’s final social spending package as Democrats scramble to make it more palatable for their moderate colleagues.

“I’m in my car. I’m driving. It says caller ID blocked,” Capito told Politico, which first reported the calls. “I thought it was Sen. Manchin. His calls come in blocked. And she goes ‘Sen. Capito?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.”

Capito said she “couldn’t figure out” how Meghan got her number.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also got a ring from the wife of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, to discuss paid family leave.

“I was happy to talk with her,” Collins told Politico. “But I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it.”

Republicans are united in opposition to the bill and its provisions, including paid family leave.

A spokeswoman for Meghan told The Washington Post that the duchess is acting in a personal capacity. The former American actress has been a longtime proponent of paid family leave programs and has recently ramped up her appeals to Congress, asking that they pass the measure in Biden’s agenda. Last month, she sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), asking that they pass paid family and medical leave, arguing that comprehensive leave should be a “national right, rather than a patchwork option.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Pelosi announced that four weeks of paid family and medical leave would be re-added to the spending bill. Democrats had scrapped it last week due to objections from Manchin. Biden had originally proposed a 12-week paid leave, but he said during a CNN town hall in October that he would be willing to scale it back down to four.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday, Pelosi said the four weeks of leave were added back to the bill but added that she is “committed to only passing a bill in the House that can also pass the Senate.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has led the charge to ensure that paid leave makes it to the final bill, also got a call from the duchess about the subject. A spokeswoman didn’t share any additional details from the call.