PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 16, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Sir. The next question is for the president. Yes, sir, right there - white shirt. DWAYNE BURNS: My name is Dwayne Burns. I'm a martial arts instructor and a father. Mr. President, could you outline any plans you have to expand the Family Leave Act?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Well first let me say that I signed the Family Leave Act - it was my very first bill, and I'm very proud of it because it symbolizes what I think we ought to be doing.
I don't take credit for all the good things that have happened in America, but I take credit for what I've tried to do to work with others to make good things happen.
The most important good things that have happen in America happen in families. Just about every family I know, the main concern is how am I going to succeed at work and still do right by my children? Family and Medical Leave has let 12 million families take a little time off for the birth of a child or a family illness without losing their job. I'd like to see it expanded in two ways: I'd like to say you can also take a little time off without losing your job to go to a regular parent-teacher conference or to go to a regular doctor's appointment with a family member.
I'd also like to see the overtime laws change so that we could have some more flex time so that at the discretion of the worker - the worker - if you earn overtime you could decide whether you want that time to be taken in cash or in time with your family if you've got a family problem.
I never go anywhere, it seems like, where I don't meet somebody who's benefited from the Family Leave law. In Longview, Texas, the other day, I met a woman who was almost in tears because she had been able to keep her job while spending time with her husband who had cancer. One of the people who's here with me today met a woman in the airport saying that her son just was able to be present at the birth of his child because of the Family Leave Law. So, yes, I think it should be expanded. We have to help people succeed at home and at work.
MR. DOLE: Well, 88 percent of the people the president claims, or 11 million, are already covered. And only 5 percent - keep in mind, only 5 percent of the employers were even affected by the Family Leave Act.
We had a better idea. We didn't win, but we had a better idea. Now we have a majority, we need to get a president. That was a tax credit to the employer. Instead of the federal government reaching out, we had a tax credit to pick up some of the cost. Because if you have to hire a replacement worker, that's a cost.
This is the way it ought to work. Give more power back to the states and back to the people, back to the taxpayers. Not always the long arm of the federal government. But keep in mind this bill covers 5 percent of the employers. Ninety-five percent of the employers and all those employees they employ are not covered in this act. And according to Investors Daily, which I read just a couple of days ago, 88 percent of the people he claims credit for were already covered in collective bargaining agreements or other agreements.
We had family leave in our office. I'm certain - I see my friend Senator Mitchell. He had family leave. I work every day with people. I spent a lot of time in hospitals. I know what it's like to be in a hospital. Sure we want family leave, but there's a better way to do it.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I only have 30 seconds. I can't fix the statistics. It covers the majority of the workforce. Employers of under 50 are exempted. The bill originally covered employers of 25 and more, but because of opposition, we went up to 50. Senator Dole led the opposition to it. He filibustered it. He said it was a mistake. He said it would hurt the economy. We've had record numbers of new small businesses and 10-1/2 million jobs. It didn't hurt the economy. He still believes it's a mistake. I believe it was right. You can decide which of us you think are right. It's up to you.