New Bills on Equal Pay, Paid Leave Will Test GOP’s Willingness to Follow Trump’s Lead

February 9, 2017, 5:24 PM UTC

At the Republican National Convention in July, Ivanka Trump characterized her father as a champion of equal pay and paid maternity leave.

“American families need relief. Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm,” she said. And later: “He will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will fight for this too, right along side of him.”

The president’s support of those policies upset long-standing GOP orthodoxy that favors small government, and now, two bills to be introduced Thursday by Republican Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) will test whether Senate Republicans are willing to follow their new leader down the uncharted path.

The two pieces of legislation will target paid leave and equal pay and will come two days after Democratic lawmakers Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced their own plan to introduce a bill for paid family leave a third time.

In an interview with Politico, Fischer dismissed the notion that equal pay was not a GOP issue “everybody supports [it],” she said. The problem, she said, has been with the party’s messaging. “I think it’s an issue that to be honest, that we as a party have not taken a high profile on,” she said.

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The equal pay bill is the same one Fischer previously put forward in response to Democrats’ so-called Paycheck Fairness Act. Her legislation would make it illegal for women to be fired for sharing or asking about salary information in the workplace.

“The threat of retaliation casts an invisible shadow, preventing open discussion of wages and allowing retribution against employees who openly discuss it. Many employees are left with little more than gossip, perception and lost opportunities,” Fischer wrote in an op-ed for Time last year.

Her bill is similar to an executive order President Barack Obama signed for federal contractors in 2014. A previous version of Fischer’s measure garnered support from four Democrats and one Independent in the Senate.

Her paid leave bill, meanwhile, would create a two-year tax credit for companies that voluntarily provide their employees with at least two weeks of paid leave. That employer incentive approach is one President Trump advocated for on the campaign trail, though the time off it guarantees is short of Trump’s six-week proposal and the 12-weeks of leave promised by Gillibrand and DeLauro’s legislation.

For all the directives that have come out of the Oval Office in the Trump administration’s first three weeks, none have touched on the equal pay or maternity leave pledges he made while campaigning. But—perhaps foreshadowing what’s to come—Ivanka Trump has held several meetings with CEOs and business leaders to discuss paid leave and other women’s economic empowerment issues.

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