Politics

'Family Time Should Not Be A Privilege': Dems Respond To Paul Ryan's Demand For Work-Life Balance

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Rep. Paul RyanRep. Paul Ryan

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said that he would consider the House Speaker position -- but only if he is able to strike a work-life balance. Many Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have supported Ryan's decision, while also noting that all Americans should enjoy the same benefits.

“I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan said on Oct. 20, according to TIME. “Janna and I have children who are in the formative, foundational years of their lives.”

Ryan, who was Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election, added that he will maintain a work-life balance in this role even if it means raising less money for the party.

Democrats have been trying to pass legislation to give Americans a greater amount of paid family leave, extend childcare benefits, and mandate paid sick leave, The Hill reports.

Republicans have repeatedly rejected such proposals.

Ryan is among those who have voted against greater benefits for American families, causing many to call him a hypocrite for requesting as much should he take the role of Speaker of the House.

In 2009, Ryan voted against a bill that would provide paid family leave to all federal employees, TIME reports. The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.

In a budget Ryan drafted in 2014, child-care subsidies would have been cut from federal funding through the Social Services Block Grant that assists low-income families.

This year, the Family Medical and Insurance Leave Act, drafted to create a national paid leave program, was introduced by Democrats and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Ryan is the chairman. The committee has yet to act on the Dems' proposal.

Regardless of Ryan’s history of not supporting additional family benefits, Pelosi is hopeful his needs will resonate within the Republican party.

"That's very exciting because that's what we want for all of America's families," Pelosi told reporters Oct. 22 regarding Ryan's demand, according to The Hill.

"Members of Congress have paid sick leave — it means a lot to the family-work balance," Pelosi added. "I hope that that respect for his particular situation would translate for a recognition of what that means to all of America's families."

Ryan’s need for more time with his family, and less time on the road — in a job that could require more than 100 days of travel a year — has left at least one Republican saying he may not be fit for the job.

"The Speaker has to work more than 40 hours a week," Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said on Oct. 21. "It is a tough job. John Boehner spent hundreds and hundreds of days of the year on the road fundraising for some pretty vulnerable members. I mean, what happens if that ends? I think there's a lot of members who might lose their jobs."

Ryan quickly defended his schedule.

“Hey, look, I’m here four days a week as it is,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to spend the other three days a week running around America."

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts came to the defense of Ryan, while calling for the same privileges to be given to all Americans.

"Family time should not be a privilege reserved for the Speaker of the House," Warren tweeted Oct. 21, The Hill reports. "You deserve it — and so does everyone else."

A spokesman for Ryan issued a statement on Ryan’s views on work-life balance, stating it has always been a priority for him, and that the Working Families Flexibility Act, of which he is a cosponsor, would allow workers to receive paid time off for working extra hours instead of time-and-a-half overtime pay, TIME reports.

“This legislation would help people achieve a healthier work-life balance and maintain current employee workplace protections in law,” the Ryan spokesman said.

Sources: The Hill, TIME / Photo Source: Tony Alter/Flickr, Wikimedia Commons