By Maggie Mertens
Mandatory paid sick-leave might have gotten thrown out of the House health overhaul bill, but congressional Democrats haven't given up yet. They still have a chance to get legislation passed -- by tying it to swine flu.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said Tuesday he intended to introduce emergency sick-leave legislation tied to the new H1N1 virus outbreak.
It's similar to a bill introduced in the House last week by Democratic Rep. George Miller of California. The House bill would apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, and guarantee five paid sick days for workers ordered to stay home due to a contagious illness like swine flu. But where this bill significantly differs from other recent proposals is that it comes with an expiration date: two years from the day it's signed into law.
Sen. Dodd hasn't released details on his bill yet, but he's asking for seven paid sick-leave days vs. the House bill's five.
Republicans and other critics aren't impressed. The Democrats are using swine flu simply "as a PR boost for something they wanted to do anyway and that was not moving forward because of its already existing flaws," James Sherk, a member of the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the L.A. Times.
And Republican Sen.Mike Enzi of Wyoming told Reuters that this kind of legislation would only hurt small businesses financially.