Republican Senator Lamar Alexander blocked a bill that Senate Democrats attempted to pass in speedy vote. The legislation would require employers to pay their employees for sick leave.
Paid sick leave is a concern among many people right now amid the coronavirus outbreak, as people prep and brace themselves. Anyone exposed to the virus are recommended to remain quarantines for two weeks minimum.
Sen. Patty Murray's (D-Wash.) legislation would require employers give workers 14 days of paid sick leave during public health emergencies. She tried to get unanimous consent on the legislation on Wednesday, which would have it bypass a vote, but Alexander said he could not support the bill.
Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to set up a vote, or pass a bill by unanimous consent. But any one senator can also object to that request.
"The idea of paid sick leave is a good idea. But if Washington, D.C., thinks it's a good idea, Washington, D.C., should pay for it," the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee chairman said. "It's not a cure for the coronavirus to put a big new expensive federal mandate on employers who are struggling in the middle of this matter."
The GOP chairman said while he could not support the bill, he was willing to work with Murray – the top Democrat on the HELP Committee – to combat the coronavirus.
Democrats are pushing for new paid sick leave measures as an effort to try to prevent the spread of the virus. They worry that without paid sick leave, employees will try to come to work sick.
Murray's state has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. More than 260 cases have been reported from the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Our primary goal right now, for people in my home state and across the country, needs to be slowing the spread of the virus in areas where there are outbreaks, so areas where it hasn’t hit so hard yet have time to prepare," Murray stated.
She added, "One of the best ways we can do this is by allowing workers who feel sick—or who need to stay home with a child whose school is closed—to do so without losing a paycheck or a job."
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