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The Senate GOP “Working Families” Agenda Is Out Of Touch

In anticipation of the White House Summit on Working Families taking place next Monday (and co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress!), Senate Republicans unveiled a “working families” policy package of their own today. And while they may trick some people by adopting progressive language, the actual policy proposals leave a lot to be desired. Here’s a few of them:

  • Working Parents Home Office Act: introduced by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), this bill would allow parents to deduct home office costs from their taxes if they have a baby crib in the office. Which begs the question: what happens if you happen to work outside of the home?
  • Forty Hours is Full Time Act: introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), this bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s 30-hour workweek rule. Doing that would mean 500,000 people losing health care coverage and going uninsured.
  • Working Families Flexibility Act, which Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is now pushing and which Republicans tried to pass last April. Instead of requiring that employers pay workers higher wages when they work more than 40 hours a week, as under current overtime laws, the bill would instead give them the option of compensating employees with “comp time” off of work. But rather than giving working parents some relief, it would likely end up putting employer pressure on them to take comp time instead of extra pay and loosen the disincentive employers currently have to make workers stay past 40 hours.
  • An unnamed alternative to Democrats’ Paycheck Fairness Act, endorsed by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), is similar to Democrats version in that it would end the practice of employers banning their employees from discussing their salaries. However, it lacks the enforcement mechanism by dropping the part of the Democratic bill that raises punitive damages for employers found guilty of pay discrimination against women.

Even with this calculated rollout, the GOP stepped on their feet thanks to Rep. Tim Huelskamp. Earlier today, the Kansas Congressman spoke about the need for husbands to step up and become “real men” by explaining that their wives are “desperately looking for a husband.”

Earlier this year, Senate Democrats offered their own legislative agenda for working families and, in particular, working women. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democrats have pushed their agenda to address equal pay, work/family balance, and childcare. It includes the Paycheck Fairness Act to help enforce equal pay for equal work; a minimum wage increase, which would benefit millions including the increasing share of workers who live off of it as their primary source of income; the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which protects pregnant women in the workplace from common discrimination; investment in job training programs; and support for women entrepreneurs and small businesses.

BOTTOM LINE: Fifty years ago, 25 percent of women were their family’s primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner. Today, that number is nearly two thirds of women. Working families don’t need policies that give them a tax credit for putting a crib in their home office; they need 21st century reforms that acknowledge the changing role of women — and men — in the workplace and at home.

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