More than a decade ago, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) helped pass the Family Medical Leave Act, the law that lets employees take up to a year of unpaid leave for childbirth or health problems. Dodd faced a long fight to get the legislation passed, but now he says it doesn't go far enough.
"The idea that you are going to take off several weeks and not get paid at all makes it almost impossible for a lot of families," he says.
Dodd has introduced a new version of the law that would provide paid leave. The five-term senator believes the idea of paid leave will win more support now than when the original law was passed, because there are more women in Congress.
"As caretakers … they understand what it means with a newborn to have the time available to get your life settled," he says.
Dodd, who is chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, also talks about other issues affecting families and children. He expresses concern about how the credit crisis is affecting student loans, but says educational institutions must also be held accountable for skyrocketing tuition rates.
"If the rates of inflation continue," he says, "how do working families even think about … coming up with that kind of money?"
He also advocates changing the No Child Left Behind Act to shift the focus more toward growth and away from testing. The education legislation was put in place during President Bush's first term.
Regarding the heated race for President Bush's successor, Dodd, who has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), says Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) 10-point margin of victory in the Pennsylvania primary was disappointing; it was too vague to be decisive, he says.
And, on former President Jimmy Carter's recent visit with Hamas leaders, Dodd says Carter's visit was a "bad idea." Dodd is a senior member of the Committee on Foreign Relations. "For a former American president to do that without sanctioning ... engaging in his own foreign policy ... is highly disruptive," he says.