MEMPHIS, Tenn. — President Bush on Tuesday vetoed landmark legislation that would have provided workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child or in cases of family illness.
The White House announced the veto, the 32nd of Bush's presidency, as the President wound up a daylong campaign trip through six Southern and border states. Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas had supported the legislation.
In announcing the expected veto, Bush took pains to emphasize his support for the principle of family leave. But he said he remained opposed to a mandatory system, and reaffirmed his support for an alternative plan that would merely encourage such policies. That plan, which Bush unveiled recently in an attempt to blunt criticism of his stance, would provide tax credits to small and medium-size business that establish family leave policies for all their employees.
The congressional measure had been approved in the Senate by voice vote and on a vote of 241 to 161 by the House. Although the margin was far short of the two-thirds support required to override a presidential veto, Democratic leaders plan to push for a vote soon, setting the stage for a partisan showdown before the Nov. 3 election. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell of Maine said Tuesday a vote would be scheduled within the next few weeks.
The legislation would require employers with 50 or more workers to allow them up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave either to obtain medical treatment or to care for sick children, spouses or elderly parents.
Although companies would not be required to pay workers for their time, they would be forced to continue their medical insurance, which is becoming increasingly costly. And workers would be guaranteed that their jobs would still be open when they returned.
Clinton criticized the veto during a campaign stop in Detroit. "This is another reason why I think people will vote for me on Nov. 3," he said.