by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says she is ready to speak out more on issues of particular relevance to women, starting with the lack of paid parental leave in the U.S.
Ernst, who is now the fourth-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, is working alongside a group of male GOP counterparts to write conservative legislation that would let new parents take paid time off from work after the birth or an adoption of a child.
“We have shared the same concerns about issues for years and years and years, we just maybe aren’t as vocal about those issues,” Ernst said of Republicans, speaking in the first interview in her new office. “Most of the conservative women I work with, they’re very modest. They don’t want to be out at the forefront. Some of those issues are very hard to talk about. I think now is the time. If we need to speak up, we need to speak up. We’ll find our way forward with our new voice.”
Democrats long have claimed paid family leave as their cause, but that has been changing — with the blessing of the Trump White House. Part of the reason for the shift is that Republicans believe they’ve found a conservative approach to paid family leave by letting new parents draw from Social Security early in exchange for delaying retirement.