President Trump may not be eager to use the term “quid pro quo” at the moment, but that’s exactly what White House negotiators and Democratic legislators agreed to in a deal struck late last week. And this quid pro quo is about trading a “space force” for parents getting time off from work to bond with their kids.
In exchange for his beloved Space Force—the new military branch dedicated to extraplanetary defense—the GOP is going to fund a brand-new parental leave benefit for federal workers, which the Washington Post says would be their biggest victory in nearly three decades.
The Trump administration has tried to cut benefits for federal employees pretty much since its inception, and its callousness towards them manifested in the longest ever federal government shutdown a year ago. So the fact that it’s willing to turn the 12 weeks of unpaid time off now available to federal workers under the Family and Medical Leave Act into paid time off tells you how fixated Trump has become on the Space Force.
He initially said “he was not really serious” about the idea before seeing how enthusiastically his supporters responded to it at his rallies and making it the top priority in negotiations.
But even with the sign-off of the White House and congressional Democrats, the fate of the bill is unclear. A measure to provide federal employees with paid family leave failed by one vote in the Senate earlier this year.
There are also people inside the administration, like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who have raised concerns about the cost of the new benefit.
But the president wants to run on delivering on the Space Force in 2020 which means this bill, which lawmakers want passed by the end of the year, could be his last shot, so he’s willing to swallow the indignity of, you know, giving federal employees the chance to bond with their new kids.