The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Biden is open to mandating paid family leave in future legislation, Yellen says

Treasury secretary’s comments come as House committees prepare to finalize relief legislation in coming days

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a mandated national family leave and child-care policy is “certainly something that President Biden is interested in.” (Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters)

President Biden is open to a national mandate for paid family leave and child care as the administration begins to develop a massive infrastructure and jobs bill that could follow the $1.9 trillion relief bill now making its way through Congress, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday.

House committees are set to start cobbling together Biden’s coronavirus relief bill this week, although certain elements — including income limits for stimulus checks — remain under discussion, according to Yellen.

Senior Democrats to unveil $3,000-per-child benefit as Biden stimulus gains steam

The House is expected to pass the relief bill by the end of February, with the Senate to follow. Democrats want to get the relief package signed into law by mid-March, because that’s when enhanced unemployment benefits will expire without congressional action.

Biden has already said he intends to announce his next major initiative in his first address to a joint meeting of Congress, which is set for Feb. 23.

Yellen offered some details in an appearance Sunday on “Face the Nation” about what to expect in that package, saying it will encompass infrastructure development, education and job training, climate change, and measures to improve economic competitiveness and grow job creation.

Asked whether her ultimate goal is for the United States to have a mandated national family leave and child-care policy — something many other industrialized nations already offer — Yellen said: “It’s certainly something that President Biden is interested in.”

On Feb. 7, lawmakers and members of President Biden's Cabinet prepared for a week packed with an impeachment trial and coronavirus relief talks. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

“The current package he’s proposed, the American Rescue Package, is intended to deal with the immediate crisis, the economic crisis and the health-care crisis,” Yellen said. “But beyond that, he looks forward to proposing ideas to address long-standing challenges that our economy has faced, and a leveling off or even decline in women’s labor force participation rate because they don’t have access universally in the United States to paid family and medical leave and child care is certainly something he’s going to want to address.”

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) said in an interview that he has discussed the next package extensively with Yellen and that the intention is to move forward with it “right away” after passage of the covid relief bill.

“I think that there’s a considerable amount of goodwill there right now for the Biden administration, and I think that as we develop momentum, we should proceed,” Neal said.

Neal said an expansive infrastructure package will be a centerpiece of this next proposal. “I think it has to be all encompassing. I think it’s rail, highways, roadways, bridges, airports, water, sewer and certainly broadband.”

Neal said he also will aim to include tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable energy measures.

“One of the things that should be clear is virtually everybody acknowledges the threat of climate change, but we’re not going to get to some answers by hectoring each other. We need some legislation,” Neal said. “And I think that using the tax code to build that bridge makes a good deal of sense to incent people to move away from a dependence on the fossils.”

Jeff Stein contributed to this report.