Rand Paul Blocks Bill That Would Ensure New Moms Are Allowed to Breastfeed at Work

Senators hoped to pass the bipartisan PUMP Act before the holidays, but Paul is more concerned about protecting businesses from new regulations.

Rand Paul Blocks Bill That Would Ensure New Moms Are Allowed to Breastfeed at Work
Photo:Anna Moneymaker (Getty Images)

UPDATE at 4:10 pm: The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon, through an amendment vote to add it to the 2023 government funding bill. It passed by a 92-5 margin. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), and Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.) voted against it.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also passed the Senate on Thursday after being blocked earlier this month when Democratic senators sought to pass it through unanimous consent. Like the PUMP Act, it was added to the year-end funding package by a 73-24 vote, with 24 Republican senators blocking the bill, which guarantees bathroom breaks for pregnant workers.

EARLIER: Earlier this month, Senate Republicans—many of whom have endorsed a federal 15-week abortion ban, which would force people to stay pregnant against their will—blocked a bill to let pregnant workers take bathroom breaks without being fired. And on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked a bill to ensure new parents are allowed to breastfeed on the job.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act and sought unanimous consent for the Senate to vote on the bipartisan bill, which would allow it to pass through the chamber swiftly. But Paul decided to block a vote on the PUMP Act because Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), the sponsor of the bill, didn’t include Paul’s amendment that would study the impact of increased regulations on businesses, a source familiar with his decision told Jezebel. Paul did not provide a comment.

On the Senate floor on Tuesday, Murray called the bill a matter of “common sense and basic human decency.”

“This is really straightforward. When new moms return to work, they should have the time and space they need to pump and breastfeed their baby,” Murray said. Speaking on the Senate floor, the Washington senator said the PUMP Act would have extended protections for breastfeeding while at work to about nine million potentially nursing working parents. The bill would close a loophole in the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, which mostly only covers hourly workers and excludes most salaried occupations, per the Economic Policy Institute.

Murray and Merkley’s bill would also ensure nursing workers receive reasonable break time and a private place to pump, and if they lose their jobs for pumping while working, they’ll have the rights to back pay and reinstatement.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.) had previously blocked the PUMP Act in August, claiming employers in the transportation industry wouldn’t be able to provide these accommodations and that the bill would somehow further hurt the supply chain amid an ongoing baby formula shortage. That a Republican is again blocking the PUMP Act, which senators reportedly hoped would pass before the holidays, is pretty much in line with what we’ve seen from anti-abortion lawmakers post-Roe v. Wade. Earlier this month, Paul joined Tillis in opposing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which affords pregnant workers basic protections like bathroom and water breaks, inexplicably equating the bill with “abortion on demand.” It’s almost as if Republicans want to force people to give birth and then refuse to give them one ounce of protection or support once they do.

Tillis claimed companies would somehow misuse the law to give workers paid time off for abortions (which sounds great!), citing how some companies have offered coverage of abortion-related costs—which wouldn’t have happened were it not for Republicans’ abortion bans. As the adage goes, the cruelty is the point—but it increasingly seems like the stupidity is too.

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