Child-care issues move to political forefront as both parties position for midterms

Paid leave and access to child care are surging to the top of the nation’s political debate as Democrats and Republicans seek to win votes and advance policies to address the economic struggles of families trying to raise children and hold jobs.

A high-profile White House “working families” summit today will focus on issues such as child care, paid family leave and equal pay between men and women. Politicians in both parties are also rolling out new parental leave and child-care legislation amid predictions that such issues will be prominent in the 2014 midterm and 2016 presidential campaigns.

Paid leave and child care are emerging as centerpiece issues for many Democrats, part of their broader attempt to portray Republicans as hostile to issues important to women. President Obama said last week that “we probably have as bad a child-care safety net as any developed country,” and today he is expected to seek commitments from companies to do more on parental leave and flexibility for workers with families.

Potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this month endorsed guaranteed paid leave, although she said it would take time before the federal government could move forward on the idea. Clinton allies said the issue would be a central plank of any future campaign.

Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing for additional tax breaks for working parents and other family-friendly proposals in hopes of attracting support from independents and Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, introduced a bill last week that would allow parents to take a deduction for a home office even it if has a baby crib in it. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, another likely presidential candidate, has signed on to legislation drafted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, promoting a child-care tax break.

Paul said by email that the legislation “would give more people access to child-care so they can work or seek job training.”

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