The veto king

October 03, 1991

While Americans are being swamped by the recession, President Bush is threatening to veto two bills that might help keep them afloat. One bill would extend unemployment benefits for up to 20 weeks; the other would allow a woman to take 12 weeks unpaid leave from work after giving birth or adopting a child, without losing her job.

Defending his opposition to extending benefits, the president cited the tired GOP tax-and-spend line. But with billions being doled out in foreign aid, that rationale reeks of hypocrisy.

Bush could extend benefits to laid-off Americans and still stay within federal budget constraints merely by accepting Congress' premise that the unemployment problem is an "emergency" situation -- which, with tens of thousands of men and women running out of benefits every month, seems fairly obvious.

The same is true of parental leave. The bill exempts small businesses, which claimed they couldn't get along for 12 weeks minus one employee. It also exempts the top 10 percent of earners on similar grounds. The legislation would, however, protect millions of low- and middle-income working women whose ability to hang on to a job is otherwise threatened by a pregnancy -- a fearful prospect for any working parent, particularly in these hard times. The Senate passed such a bill yesterday, and the House is expected to follow suit.

Bush's stubborn opposition to these bills makes a mockery of his touted "pro-family" posture. Demographics, television and an increasingly complex culture are indeed eating away at the fabric of the traditional family. Yet the greatest threat to family stability is a parent, or parents, who are out of work, out of money and -- all too often -- out on the streets.

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