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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Family Leave Legislation

September 16, 1992

The President. One of the things we're going to be talking about here today is family leave. I am very proud of what we have already accomplished for families. We all know the issues on that. We have a child care plan that puts the power in the hands of families and parents, not bureaucrats. We let the family choose their child care and not the Government. We should provide an equally flexible approach to family and medical leave.

I favor family and medical leave, always have. But the real question is how do we achieve that goal? Now the Democrats are sending me a bill. It's been timed for politics. They've been sitting on it for a whole year. It takes one different -- approach different from ours.

Unfortunately, they and my opponent believe in a Government-dictated mandate that increases costs and loses jobs. Every Governor that comes in here says, "Please don't create more mandates." But now they're sending me a mandated program.

Our alternative is to provide a family-oriented solution in the form of a tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses. Our approach both encourages companies to adopt family leave policies and gives them the flexibility to target the specific needs of their employees.

My tax credit approach, and we have it in a bill, has another great big advantage. The Democrat bill covers only businesses with more than 50 employees, leaving out the millions of employees of small firms, those the least likely to get leave. Our solution would provide an incentive to all small and medium-sized companies to provide this important benefit. So, in fact, I think our approach has a broader coverage and includes those most in need.

So I would like to suggest if people are really interested in getting family leave done, and I am, that the Democratic leadership go to work on this. It can be done very, very quickly, and it will not cause a loss of jobs, something that concerns me very much in this small-business arena. We're trying to help small business, not mandate them so that, whether they want to or not, they have to lay people off.

So I would like to see immediate action on this. There's an awful lot of politics at play here. But here's an approach that for those that want family leave can do it; those who are opposed to mandates, as I am and many, many other people are across this country, they can support this very nicely.

So that's where we'd like -- --

Q. Mr. President, do you know how much it would cost and how would you pay for it?

The President. Well, we're going to be discussing that with the leaders. There are some $60 billion that OMB knows about where we can allocate to this. But that has to all be negotiated out, depending on the size of it and all.

Q. So you are going to veto the bill?

The President. Well, I've sent a veto signal for a long, long time on this. It's just odd that now, after a year up there, it shows up down here 2 weeks before the adjournment of this session. I find that very peculiar and highly political.

So I'll stay with my past position here. If there's some last minute compromise that can be worked out on existing legislation, fine. I don't see it. Our people, Nick Calio and all, have been struggling very had to try to get something done on family leave that is not a mandate. And therein lies the key.

Q. You didn't offer this bill the last time you vetoed family leave.

The President. Well, we've been trying to work with the Congress to try to get something done. Now here's a clean approach that those who really want family leave should take a look at.

Thank you. Hey, listen, I've got to go to work here. Thank you all very much.

Q. Are you going to be in Lansing on Tuesday?

The President. I don't know where I'm going to be Tuesday. That's a long way away.

Note: The President spoke at 8:15 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House prior to a meeting with Republican congressional leaders. In his remarks, he referred to Nicholas E. Calio, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs.

George Bush, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Family Leave Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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