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Bush May Veto Family Leave Bill--Sununu

From Associated Press

President Bush will veto a bill guaranteeing time off to workers with new babies or family illness if employers are required to offer the unpaid benefit, White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu told business leaders today.

The White House confirmed Sununu’s veto threat after lobbyists for business groups said he made the promise at a White House meeting.

The family and medical leave act would require businesses with 50 or more employees to offer unpaid time off for the care of newborn, newly adopted or seriously ill children, as well as to deal with personal health problems or to tend ill spouses or parents.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, is scheduled for House action Wednesday. It is opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbying groups.

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Sponsors of the legislation denounced Sununu’s veto threat.

“It would be most unfortunate if my party, which so strongly supports family values, were to turn its back on working families, women, children, grandma and grandpa,” said Rep. Marge Roukema (R-New Jersey), a chief sponsor.

“It’s not just a mandate, it’s a job security issue for working families.”

Roukema called Sununu’s threat “a complete surprise.”

Mary Tavenner, a lobbyist for the National Assn. of Wholesaler-Distributors, said businesses opposed the measure because of its cost and contended that many employers already offer better benefits.

“There’s only so many things an employer can offer,” she said.

Tavenner and Christine Russell, lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, were among the business representatives invited to the White House meeting.

“He basically said the President would veto anything that is a mandated benefit,” Tavenner said.

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An aide to Sununu, who asked not to be identified by name, confirmed that account.

“Mandated benefits will be vetoed,” the aide said.


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