Ivanka Trump drawing up family policies that could piggyback onto tax reform effort

Key Points
  • Ivanka Trump met with Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republican lawmakers to discuss family and child care policies.
  • Rubio has proposed a child tax credit of up to $2,500 and incentives for companies that provide paid family leave.
Ivanka Trump
Zach Gibson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

First daughter Ivanka Trump huddled with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to discuss family and child care policy as she seeks to build momentum around one of her signature issues.

The meeting was spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has proposed a child tax credit of up to $2,500 and incentives for companies that provide paid family leave. A spokesman said the discussion focused on ways to tailor that credit for the working class, how to eliminate the marriage penalty and strategies for promoting paid leave.

Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Joni Ernst of Iowa were the only female lawmakers in the meeting. Also attending were Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah and Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas and Trent Franks and David Schweikert of Arizona.

Rubio told reporters after the meeting, which lasted about an hour, that Trump was in the "input stage" and was interested in proposals that could garner strong GOP support in the Senate. He and Fischer suggested that a provision could be attached to the sweeping tax reform package that lawmakers hope to pass this fall, but he cautioned that the discussions were preliminary.

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"There's a growing desire in the Republican conference in the Senate and House to address the fundamental fact that there are people in America who have decided they can't afford to have children because they can't get a month off of work and not get paid," Rubio said.

Trump has focused her efforts on making child care more affordable. She pushed her father's administration to include $19 billion in its budget to pay for a national family leave program even as it slashes trillions of dollars in spending on other social safety net programs. The proposal would have been administered through local unemployment offices, and states would be responsible for determining benefit levels. But an administration official estimated they would average $343 per week.

A federally funded paid leave program has long been a dream of Democrats, though they have criticized the first daughter's approach for not going far enough.

"As outlined in his budget, President Trump's paid parental leave proposal threatens to leave out the very workers who need access to robust, comprehensive paid leave benefits the most," said Sunny Frothingham, a senior researcher for women's economic policy at the Center for American Progress, in a statement this month. "Worse, the proposal threatens to put additional strain on an already-underfunded UI system, potentially pitting unemployed jobseekers against new parents."

On the other hand, Republicans are no fans of using federal dollars to fund family leave. During his presidential campaign, Rubio derided that strategy as an "outdated, costly federal mandate." Instead, he proposed giving employers who offered at least four weeks of paid family leave a 25 percent tax credit. The credit was capped at 12 weeks and $4,000 per employee annually.

No Democrats attended Tuesday's meeting on Capitol Hill. But Ivanka Trump previously met with both liberal and conservative think tanks to hear alternatives to her approach. She has also had dinner with female CEOs about this issue and signaled that she is open to revising her position.

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Correction: Sunny Frothingham is a senior researcher for women's economic policy at the Center for American Progress. An earlier version misstated her title.