AOC praises Meghan Markle as she's invited to senator meeting over paid family leave

Exclusive: Progressive Democrat praises work of Duchess of Sussex to lobby Republicans on paid family leave

Eric Garcia
Friday 05 November 2021 14:49
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The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle has reportedly been invited to a meeting with women senators amid praise for her lobbying work on paid family leave — which has been put back in the Democrat’s reconciliation bill.

Ms Markle was invited to the meeting by Democrat congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, who told The 19th that she “could hear how sincere she was about advocacy”. The meeting includes both Democrats and Republicans.

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also praised the Duchess of Sussex for lobbying for paid family leave with Republicans, as Congress debates President Biden’s landmark social welfare package.

“I think every American being engaged in the process is a positive contribution to our outcome,” the congresswoman from New York told The Independent on Thursday.

Politico reported that the Duchess of Sussex, who stepped back from her duties last year along with her husband Prince Harry, cold-called Republican senators, including Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat who has championed family leave policies, said she was coordinating the effort.

But Ms Collins appeared to bristle, according to Politico, saying she was happy to talk with the Duchess, “But I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it.” Ms Gillibrand said she is working with Ms Collins on a bipartisan proposal for paid leave.

But some Republicans also criticised Ms Markle. Jason Smith of Missouri told TMZ that she should abandon her title of Duchess if she involves herself in American politics, despite being an American citizen.

But Ms Ocasio-Cortez defended the former actress.

“I think anyone who is willing to have a conversation with any elected to expand paid leave is great,” she said as votes ended for the day in the House.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s defence come as Democrats push to include paid family leave in their $1.75 trillion social spending bill, which they hope to pass this week through a process called budget reconciliation, which would allow Senate Democrats to sidestep a GOP filibuster.

But with only 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaker, Democrats need the support of every senator in their caucus. Sen Joe Manchin of West Virginia criticised including paid leave in the bill, sometimes called the Build Back Better bill, which led to the White House excluding it from the framework text it released last week.

But after Democrats lost key state-level races on Election Day Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats it would be put back into their version of the bill, albeit with only four weeks of leave. Ms Ocasio-Cortez, who has clashed with the House speaker occasionally despite voting for Ms Pelosi for the role, praised the development.

“Substantively, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent, adding that she wished the proposal would include more than just four weeks.

Ms Pelosi said she wished the paid leave provision would be six weeks since that is the age that babies can attend child care, which is also included in the Build Back Better bill. She defended the move despite Mr Manchin’s objections.

“With all the respect in the world for the point of view he represents, I disagree,” she told reporters. “I think that this is appropriate for this legislation.”

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