President Obama urged Congress and employers to broaden benefits for families, arguing that paid leave for new parents and good-quality child care are basic needs for today’s workforce, not “frills.”
But with Congress unlikely to mandate major new benefits any time soon, Obama focused on urging business executives to change their policies on their own and on small-scale initiatives that he can enact without congressional action.
“The bottom line is, 21st century families deserve 21st century workplaces,” Obama said at the White House meeting Monday, often to cheers from the audience of lawmakers, activists and business executives. “As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices.”
The daylong summit focused attention on the administration’s economic agenda ahead of November’s midterm congressional elections, though Obama tried to head off criticism that its main target was female voters.
“All too often, these issues are thought of as women’s issues, which I guess means you can scoot ’em aside a little bit,” Obama said. “But anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families.”
Republicans asserted that Obama is only trying to use the summit as a crutch for the midterm elections. If Obama were really serious, they said, he would work with Republicans on workplace flexibility legislation already in Congress.
“It’s unfortunate that President Obama and the Democrats see women only as an electoral opportunity,” said Kirsten Kukowski, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
SOURCE: REBECCA BRATEK
The Los Angeles Times