Today, millions of Americans remain unemployed. But even for those lucky enough to have a job, things have never seemed tougher. Outdated policies diminish opportunities in the workplace, leaving many torn between the demands of work and family. And between car payments, a mortgage, out-of-control tuition, and the rising energy and medical costs many face, there’s often little left for anything else.
Easing this middle-class squeeze is a top priority for Republicans. We understand that the challenges facing the middle class are varied and complex – and that, while more jobs and lower costs are critically important, so too are greater flexibility and increased options for busy families. That’s why we’ve put forward a number of bills in Congress in recent months aimed at orienting our economy away from the failed policies of the past and toward the actual needs and realities of today’s working families.
We’ve sought to do things like restore the 40-hour workweek and fix a pay cut built into Obamacare (Forty Hours Is Full Time Act), increase educational opportunities (Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act), and put an end to an outdated law that prevents women from getting paid more when they outperform their male colleagues (RAISE Act).
One bill I recently introduced with Sen. Ayotte, the Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act, would help Americans better balance the demands of work and family by allowing workers to take time off as a form of overtime compensation. It’s an idea that’s tailored to the needs of the modern workforce, it’s something a lot of working men and women say they want, and there’s no reason not to provide a little more flexibility to working families. Another bill I introduced, the Working Parents Home Office Act, would reduce the hassle and cost of child care for working parents already stretched thin enough. My legislation would do that by changing the law to allow parents to write off a home office even if they happen to have a crib in the room. Currently, the law treats working moms and dads unfairly by disqualifying them from this deduction if they care for their child while working in a home office. So making that change is just common sense.
And, really, you could say that common sense is the hallmark of all the legislation we’ve introduced. We’re not trying to create massive government bureaucracies. We’re not looking to take from one struggling neighbor to give to another. Our aim instead is simply to identify smart, common-sense fixes that can make a significant impact in the lives of middle-class families — families who’ve never felt more squeezed.
We think these are ideas that both parties should be able to support. That’s why we’ve been reaching out to our Democrat colleagues in Washington to help us bring some relief to the middle class on a bipartisan basis. So far, we haven’t gotten a very positive response.
The Democrats who run the Senate have blocked most of these bills from advancing as a result of an election-year calculation that voters will stick with them if they just stand in place and do nothing. It doesn’t make much sense, and it isn’t doing anything to help middle-class Americans who are just looking for solutions. A better course would be to pass these common sense bills and let the politics take care of itself.
Because our middle-class constituents need relief, not more politics. And Republicans are committed to doing everything we can to deliver that relief to them. I hope Senate Democrats will join us in that effort soon.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Senate Republican Leader.