Why $1.38 A Week Is At The Heart Of The War For The Democratic Party

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have different visions for how to fund paid family leave.
Bernie Sanders, left, and Hillary Clinton speak during an exchange during the Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday
Bernie Sanders, left, and Hillary Clinton speak during an exchange during the Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

WASHINGTON -- Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) agree that the United States shouldn't be the world's only developed country with no guaranteed paid family leave policy. But they have very different visions for how such a program should be funded. 

During the Democratic presidential primary's third debate Saturday evening, Clinton gave Sanders an opening to criticize her mechanism for funding paid leave when she pledged that she would not raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year were she elected president.

"I don't think we should be imposing new big programs that are going to raise middle-class families' taxes," she said. "I don't think a middle-class tax should be a part of anybody's plans right now."

Sanders argued that Clinton's promise was inherently at odds with the Democratic Party's legacy.

"When Secretary Clinton says, 'I'm not going to raise taxes on the middle class,' let me tell you what she is saying," Sanders said. "She is disagreeing with FDR and Social Security, LBJ on Medicare and with the vast majority of progressive Democrats in the House and Senate who today are fighting to end the disgrace of the United States being the only major country on earth that doesn't provide paid family and medical leave."

Sanders pointed out that the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in Congress' upper chamber, would increase the payroll taxes for workers and companies by 0.2 percent, or roughly $1.38 a week for the median wage earner. He is one of the bill's co-sponsors

"Now you can say that's a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months' paid family and medical leave for the working families of this country," he said.

Clinton objected to Sanders' suggestion that she was wrong on the issue. Though she hasn't yet released her specific proposal for paid family leave, she and her aides have said it would be funded by raising taxes on the wealthy.

"Senator, I have been fighting for paid family leave for a very long time. I have a way to pay for it that actually makes the wealthiest pay for it, not everybody else," she said.

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