Family Leave Policy: Where Candidates Stand

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.: Biden was a strong supporter of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Knowing there are many more workers who cannot afford unpaid leave, he is co-sponsoring the Healthy Families Act, which would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide seven paid sick days to care for their own or their families' medical needs.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.: Clinton has supported the legislation that would ensure that workers can take paid time off when they are sick. She co-sponsored legislation to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide parents with time off from work to go to the doctors' office with their child. This bill also provides paid family and medical leave to qualifying parents time off to attend teachers' conferences for their children. (She points out on her Web site that her husband signed the FLMA into law in 1993.) She is also a co-sponsor of the Healthy Families Act, which would provide workers with seven paid days off of sick leave, giving parents time off to go to the doctor with their children or aging parents. Also, she has joined Chris Dodd and a bipartisan group of senators to introduce an amendment to the Senate-approved CHIP bill to extend Family and Medical Leave Act to family members of wounded soldiers to six months. Clinton also reintroduced the Choices in Child Care Act (S.820) — legislation would give qualified families greater flexibility in providing safe, quality care for their infants. The bill would help parents balance work and family, help meet the critical shortage of infant child care, provide cost savings to state child care programs, support quality care for the critical first years of a child's development, and value parenting as a form of work.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.: Dodd spent seven years working to enact the Family and Medical Leave Act. He recently introduced the Family Leave Insurance Act that would provide eight weeks of paid benefits to people who take time off from work for reasons allowed under FMLA. Employees and employers would contribute equally to the fund, which would provide partial pay for approved leave. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat: Edwards will expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to let parents take time off from work when they need it. He supports more resources for child care and after-school programs to give children a safe place to learn while their parents are at work. His health-care plan will also strengthen Medicaid's support for long-term care and emphasize home- and community-based care to allow caregivers to keep their parents nearby. He has also proposed universal early childhood and expanding the child care tax credit.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani: Giuliani's campaign didn't comment on paid leave, but did say America must provide better insurance coverage for struggling families with children, especially low-income families. Democrats want to do so by moving people from private health insurance into a government-run program. Republicans want to empower families to gain access to better, more affordable private insurance. SCHIP can and must be improved by reforms that focus aid on those for whom it was intended — children from low income families — to assist them in securing insurance which meets their needs, not by moving families from private insurance to government programs.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: McCain has been opposed to mandates for paid leave, and is especially opposed to harming small businesses.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.: Obama's focus on medical leave has been on extending it to caregivers of injured service members. S. 1885, the Military Family Job Protection Act, which Obama cosponsored with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and introduced earlier this year, would provide family members with up to one year of protected leave to care for a wounded loved one. "In many ways, the family members we are trying to assist are similar to military service members being called to active duty," said Obama in September 2007. "Just as we protect activated service members for the duration of their combat tour, we must seek to protect family members for the duration of their tour of duty caring for their wounded loved ones."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican: Romney supports the law as it currently exists.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, a Republican: The Family and Medical Leave Act was voted on before Thompson was elected to office. Generally speaking, Thompson does not support federal mandates and believes these matters should be left to state and local governments.

(Source: Compiled by campaign staff responses, candidate Web sites and public record)

For more information on where the candidates stand, visit their campaign Web sites and register your comments directly with them.