Indiana’s Senior Senator Todd Young joins to talk about a bill he’s introduced called the Support Working Families Act, which would help new parents take paid time off by giving them the option to take out an interest-free loan in the form of a tax credit. He’ll also talk about the upcoming roll the Senate will play in the confirmation process of Judge Amy Coney Barret.
Senator Todd Young represents Hoosiers in the United States Senate. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Finance; Foreign Relations; Commerce, Science & Transportation; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Senator Young is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and is a fifth-generation Hoosier. In 2010, he ran for Congress and served three terms representing Indiana’s 9th District. He was elected to the US Senate in 2016.
Welcome to She Thinks, a podcast where you’re allowed to think for yourself. I’m your host, Beverly Hallberg. And on today’s episode, I’m honored that Indiana senior Senator Todd Young joins us to talk about a bill he’s introduced called the Support Working Families Act, which would help new parents take paid time off by giving them the option to take out an interest free loan in the form of a tax credit. He’ll also talk about the upcoming role the Senate will play in the confirmation process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
But before we bring the senator on, a little bit more about him. Senator Todd Young represents Hoosier’s in the United States Senate. He currently serves on the Senate committees on finance, foreign relations, commerce, science and technology, and small business and entrepreneurship. Senator Young is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and is a fifth generation Hoosier. In 2010, he ran for Congress and served three terms representing Indiana’s ninth district. He was elected to the Senate in 2016.
Senator, it is a pleasure to have you on She Thinks today.
Sen. Todd Young:
Oh, Beverly, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
And before we jump into the Working Families Act, which we’re going to spend a decent amount of time on today. I was just curious. During the pandemic, what is it like to be a senator? I’m assuming that it’s really changed things up. Has it been hard during this time or what has it been like to serve the people of your state during a global pandemic?
Sen. Todd Young:
You know, during the really early stages, it was incredibly hard work for myself, for members of my staff, because there were just so many unanswered questions and a real need for government to be responsive. And I have to say, I was really encouraged that even though we’re in a toxically partisan atmosphere right now, Americans came together even in our federal government, and we were able to pass some legislation that helped out a lot of people.
But my role and the role of my staff was to help people navigate programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and some of the other assistance that we provided. And oftentimes we played traffic cop, providing assistance just by telling people where they could go and receive answers to their questions.
So, when I was in the Marine Corps, I didn’t have an opportunity to serve in a combat zone. And here I am as a US Senator and this is a national emergency of a different sort. I want to serve during challenging circumstances because I feel like that’s when government officials and elected officials can really add value to people’s lives. So, it’s been in a way meaningful for me to do what little part we can to help lift that burden from people’s shoulders during what is oftentimes their worst day. The time their business folds, the day that they’re furloughed, or that a relative gets COVID.
And I know specifically with some of the work that you’ve done, even prior to COVID, it’s been focusing on families and you sponsored legislation. Support Working Families Act, which you brought out and you think this is an important way to help families. Can you tell us a little bit about how this plan works?
Sen. Todd Young:
Well, sure. Part of the motivation for this, Beverly, is I’m the father of four children and I grew up in comfortable circumstances, securely middle-class family, as did my wife. And so we had parents that were able to spend a lot of time with us at a very young age. Nurturing us, bonding with us a as babies, and caring for us when we were newborn children.
I’ve learned as I’ve become older, just how important that time is for a parent to spend with a child. It really improves life outcomes in a significant way. It improves your ability to advance into professions that might be of interest to you and even impacts your health in very significant ways. So, last year I introduced some legislation that would help any new parents have the opportunity to bond with and care for their newborn or newly adopted child.
This is a fiscally responsible family leave bill that would enable parents to stay better connected to the workforce at the same time that they’re caring for their newborn or adopted child. So, here’s how it works. New parents would have the opportunity, voluntarily, to access a short-term loan by advancing their future tax credits. Then the parent would repay the amount that they borrowed within the next five to eight years through that individual’s future income tax filings, because it would be considered a tax liability.
The amount borrowed would function essentially as an interest free loan from the federal government to help parents afford that time it takes to take off of work and care for their new child. Parents taking advantage of this would potentially repay through future tax refunds or tax credits for which the individual would be eligible following their child’s birth. An example would be the child tax credit that they could use to repay this loan.
So, the combination of the amount that they borrow and any income a new parent receives from an employer or from a state government paid leave plan can’t exceed 100% of an individual’s wages. There’s really no way to game the system here. It’s fiscally, it’s paid back over a period of years, and it helps what I like to consider the Walmart dad or Walmart mom be able to make it through a time when they would like to be bonding with their child. When frankly, the entire society benefits from that active role that the parents are taking the first few months of their child’s life. And we’ve received a whole lot of positive feedback about this, and hopefully we can advance it in coming months.
And I think where there are people on the same page is people I think agree, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, that having time with your child is important. Now, there have been other suggestions we see in states and local communities that there is mandatory paid family leave that businesses have to provide. I know as a small business owner, myself in Washington, DC, that money is automatically taken out of our accounts to go to that.
What do you make of these local decisions to try to do this through business? Why do you think it’s better to do this where the individual’s family are able to make this decision versus it coming out of business?
Sen. Todd Young:
Well, one could come up with a number of arguments why it’s better to do it this way. First, I just offer the obvious, which is this won’t cost those who believe the policy is not merited. As a grant, this would not cost the taxpayer any money. These loans would be paid back. And so, to the extent somebody does not regard this as an important public policy priority, they’re not going to have to subsidize someone else having children, bonding with that child, and so forth.
Mandates on small businesses are difficult. Small businesses, experience ups and downs. I say this with a measure of credibility because I come from a small business family and I’m really proud of what my father was able to accomplish when I was young. I do know that we had some lean Christmases and we had some really good Christmases.
So, on those lean Christmas years, he probably didn’t have enough money to fund this. Certainly somebody who had a workforce of up to 10 or 12 individuals at one time, if he had a couple of his employees taking paid leave mandatorily provided by the employer, that would have been a burden on him. And so that’s an important reason to make this voluntary.
And then lastly, if one happens to reside in a locality or a state where collectively people determine in our Federalist system that it makes sense to mandate that, well, I suppose that’s a state or a local level prerogative. The state of Indiana, I don’t perceive us to be prepared for that culturally or economically. And therefore this would be a viable option for working class parents in a place like Indiana.
Moreover, there are other states, I’d use Washington state as an example, that provide a very generous paid leave plan for so many of their individuals. But there are some gaps in it. And we believe that this program can be tailored in a way to fill those gaps.
And for those who are listening, who think this does sound like a great way to help families, but also not put a burden on taxpayers, have you found that there is bipartisan support?
Sen. Todd Young:
I think there is bipartisan support for this. I’ve been working with one of the highest ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee on the Democratic side. I’m not sure I have their permission to share their name, but it’s a notable and accomplished Democrat member of the Finance Committee. We’re trying to find a way for this policy to align with this senator’s own state’s policy.
They happen to have a more generous paid leave policy than we have in the state of Indiana. So I actually think that that collaboration will lead to a work product that works in blue states and red states alike. And once we get through that gate, if you will, then I think we’ll be ready to move on this. So, as you know, in the US Senate, as it’s currently constituted, which requires 60 votes to really end debate on any measure and get it through the process, we have to find a Democratic champion. I think we’re almost there.
That’s great news. And I know that there’s a lot going on in the Senate right now. The Senate has been focused on the confirmation process that is going to be underway next week with Judge Amy Coney Barrett. What has it been like for you to see all the media storm around this and what do you think we can expect next week during the hearings?
Sen. Todd Young:
Well, number one, I just have so much respect for Amy Coney Barrett’s credentials, her temperament, and she’s just a great person for her life story. I came to know her because Don McGahn, then White House council, a Notre Dame alum himself, happened to bring Amy to my attention when she was interviewing for the seventh circuit nomination.
And I helped her through that and I was able to meet Amy and her husband, Jesse. And I came to understand that she’s really a faithful constitutionalist that understands the role of a judge, which is of course to apply the law as written to particular cases and not legislate from the bench.
I think it’s especially meaningful that she hails from the state of Indiana and that she would be the first woman on the court with school age children. So, she is someone who’s wrestling with some of the very challenges you discuss on She Thinks, challenges that professional women have to deal with and do so with great enthusiasm and gusto. But it’s nice to have role models. And it’s nice to know that these women who have to, frankly oftentimes work much harder than men juggling various responsibilities, are able to assume the highest leadership roles in the land.
I think our hearings will be contentious because of the stakes involved. Our Supreme Court has, for better or for worse, been the place in which so many of our most consequential social and economic and cultural and political issues are in the end refereed. Some of that has to do with the fact that Congress punts on difficult issues as opposed to acting boldly and that’s lamentable. But some of it also has to do with a jurisprudential philosophy, not shared by Judge Amy Coney Barrett, which embraces the notion that it is the job of a judge to insert his or her own value, judgments, and personal opinions into the law. And that’s not how Judge Amy Coney Barrett rolls.
And one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about on these podcasts, but also IWS focuses on this is how it seems that women, if they don’t share a liberal ideology, seemed to be attacked so viciously by the left and those in the media, when you add to that, somebody who not only is a nominee for the Supreme Court, but is also, as many would say, taking the place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there’s an extra layer of criticism that comes on. You know Judge Amy, Coney Barrett personally. How do you think she is personally suited or how did she prepare herself for the personal attacks that she knew was coming, should this nomination happen?
Sen. Todd Young:
Well, aside from the scrimmages, she’ll go through with White House counsel and others preparing for the actual hearing. She spent her life preparing for this. She is a person who, aside from being gifted naturally, I’m assuming, because of the heights to which she’s been able to take her academic career, she is known for her tireless work ethic. She’s known for her critical thinking skills and also known for her humility.
So, she is someone who has prepared for this through her own work. She has the support of Jesse and a lovely family, seven children. And that’s really prepared her as much as anything else. I do think that it helps that she is a … you’ve characterized her as a conservative. She’s conservative in the sense that she thinks institutions matter, that they should be taken seriously.
And I think that’s really what you want from a Supreme Court Justice. You don’t want someone who’s going to undermine the institution of the Supreme Court of the United States by turning it into a political weapon or just another political arm of our federal government, which will happen if we put judges on those important seats and they decide cases based on their personal convictions instead of how the law reads.
It’s the job of me and people like me at the federal level to make the law. It’s really just the job of someone like Judge Barrett to apply it. So, her ability to make it through the hearing, and I have high confidence she will, will just depend on continuing to bring everything right back to that. Speaking to the impropriety of her speaking to any hypothetical cases, because it’s her job to judge every case on its own merits, and there will no doubt be efforts to try and bruise her through the confirmation process by intimating that she intends to harm people and so forth. And none of that commentary should be frankly taken seriously, because if she’s applying the law faithfully and accurately, and the law needs to be changed, then the questioners need to propose solutions.
Well, no doubt it’s going to be a big week for the Senate next week. But just looking forward, is there any other legislation you’re currently working on that deals with families and things that women would specifically care about that we should pay attention to?
Sen. Todd Young:
Well, one of the things I had my team look into are the cost drivers of family budgets. And we discovered some interesting things. Of course, healthcare costs remain a very big burden on working families, working men and women alike, housing in various geographies is a big burden. But childcare is a very significant expenditure.
Oftentimes in fact, in the majority of States of this country, the average family spends more on childcare than they do higher education. And you certainly wouldn’t know that from our public policy public debates, where we spend so much time talking about the cost of college, which is very important, but we ought to spend some more time talking about childcare costs.
So, we don’t have a sufficient supply of childcare workers who are trained to properly take care of our children, especially in rural areas. And apprenticeships are one innovative way to address these challenges. So, I introduced a piece of legislation called the Early Educators Apprenticeship Act with Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, of course my Republican colleague, that would support apprenticeships in early childhood education and make sure that people were entering a genuine profession, that they could take these certified childcare certificates from geography to geography, where they would be recognized, identified, and people would be compensated accordingly. And we think that that’s part of the solution. So, that’s another, I think, really relevant and topical piece of legislation I’d like to point to.
So, we’re going to pay attention to that and also the Working Families Act hoping that there is bipartisan support so that you can move that forward. But for now, Senator Todd Young, we thank you so much for joining us on She Thinks.
Sen. Todd Young:
Oh, thanks a bunch, Beverly,
And thank you for joining us. Before you go, Independent Women’s Forum does want you to know that we rely on the generosity of supporters like you and investment in IWF fuels our efforts to enhance freedom, opportunity, and wellbeing for all Americans. Please consider making a small donation to IWF by visiting iwf.org/donate. Last, if you enjoyed this episode of She Thinks, do leave us a rating or review on iTunes, it does help. Also, we’d love it if you shared this episode and let your friends know where they can find more She Thinks episodes. From all of us here at Independent Women’s Forum, thanks for listening.