The Family Leave Dilemma

Alice Lloyd, Weekly Standard Magazine, September 4, 2017

"Abby McCloskey was another member of the working group. An economist, political consultant, and leading conservative advocate for paid family leave, she was pregnant during the 2016 presidential primaries while working as a policy adviser for Texas’s Rick Perry—who dropped out of the race just at the tail end of her two-month paid maternity leave from the campaign. Republicans, she says, are “pro-life, pro-family, pro-opportunity,” and they face a values test with the issue of paid leave. “If they don’t move on this, I think it will be an obvious sign, and it’s not just that they didn’t like the Democrats’ proposal or it was impossible to come to a compromise,” says McCloskey, an expectant mother once again. “This is an issue that is central to what the party says it values.” Republicans, she adds, will have “no one else to blame if this doesn’t pass, so that’s a really heavy burden and a crucial test.”

As younger lawmakers inherit the GOP, the Eisenhower-era ideal of household roles fades further from memory and new types of pro-family policy are gaining ground. McCloskey perceives “more appetite for this policy among younger politicians, and certainly among women politicians who have experienced firsthand having a child and breastfeeding.” Marco Rubio, she notes, is a 46-year-old father of four. “I think the reason why he would propose a plan, and why Ivanka Trump in her mid-30s would make it her focus, is that people who have first-hand experience [of the modern family] are going to be the biggest advocates.”

“While the public policy process is messy and slow,” says McCloskey, “the ground is softening on paid leave.”