Democrats revive bill for unpaid family leave

April 25, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Renewing their challenge to President Bush, Senate Democrats resurrected yesterday a bill granting 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers with family emergencies -- a measure Mr. Bush vetoed last year.

The bill has become a prime symbol of the Democrats' differences with the Republican White House and is part of a package of domestic issues Democratic candidates intend to feature in national elections next year.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., author of the bill, said yesterday that he had detected a slight softening of Republican resistance to the measure and that he held out hope Mr. Bush would reconsider his opposition.

Mr. Dodd also acknowledged that Democrats saw a chance to score political points with the legislation.

"George Bush is going to have a family leave bill on his desk everyyear that he's in office until he signs one," he said.

The bill, approved 12-5 by the Senate Education and Labor Committee, would require firms employing more than 50 people to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for a new child or a sick family member. Employers would have to continue health benefits for workers on leave and give them back their old, or comparable, jobs when they returned.

The bill passed the Senate by voice vote last year and the House by a comfortable margin. But Mr. Bush vetoed it, and the House fell 54 votes short of override.

The veto threat was renewed two weeks ago by Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, an ardent supporter of the bill last year as a Republican congresswoman from Illinois.

Two Senate committee Republicans, Daniel R. Coats of Indiana and James M. Jeffords of Vermont, voted with the panel's 10 Democrats to send the bill to the floor this year.

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