House lawmakers launched the “Congressional Dads Caucus” on Thursday, vowing to advocate for policies that will assist working-class families — including paid family leave and the expanded child tax credit.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) — who drew headlines earlier this month when he brought his baby son, Hodges, to the House floor during the Speaker’s race — led a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday announcing the creation of the caucus.
“The creation of the Dads Caucus sends a powerful message: We want to show not just interest but advocacy on the issues that impact working parents, and change the hearts and minds when it comes to the role of fathers at home and in Congress,” Gomez said.
He was joined by Reps. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) — both fathers — in addition to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the founder of the Congressional Mamas’ Caucus. Representatives from advocacy groups were also at the announcement.
“With this group here today, and with more members to come in in the future, we’re determined to achieve real solutions by fighting for our national paid family and medical leave program, affordable high-quality child care, and the expanded Child Tax Credit, which cut child poverty in this country by 40 to 60 percent during the nine months that it was in existence,” Gomez said.
So far, only Democratic lawmakers are members of the Dads Caucus. Gomez, however, said he is “hopeful” some Republicans will join the group — particularly those who agree with their mission.
“If there’s a Republican who believes in a national paid family leave or expanding the child tax credit or affordable child care, let’s have those discussions,” he said.
He has not, however, reached out to any Republicans “just yet,” asserting that the caucus “wanted to start with a core group of dads in the Democratic Caucus as well as mothers in the Democratic Caucus.”
“We’re gonna invite more Democrats to join and then we’re gonna reach out, starting with some key committees,” Gomez added.
Democrats pushed for action on extending the enhanced child tax credit in the 2022 lame-duck session, before the party was set to lose control of the House. That effort, however, failed after both parties were unable to strike a deal on including the measure in the end-of-the-year omnibus package.
The American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed into law in March, expanded the Child Tax Credit, though the larger monthly payments expired at the close of that year after Congress was unable to renew the program. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the boosted payments brought 2.1 million children above the poverty line.
Democrats have also repeatedly pushed for paid family leave, though the policy was left out of key legislative items last year — including the Inflation Reduction Act passed in the summer of 2022.
Asked about pushing through these priorities in the 118th Congress, when Republicans control the House and Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof majority, Gomez said the newly minted caucus wants to spur conversations on the issues.
“As long as we can have a discussion on just the need, and then some strategies to achieve it, then we can move from there,” he said of paid family leave. “I come from a school of thought that we’re not gonna wait for bipartisanship in order to emerge, in order to start advocating on an issue.”
Lawmakers at the press conference cited their personal experiences as fathers when expressing their dedication to the caucus and its mission.
Goldman, a freshman lawmaker from New York, held up a note his 4-year-old child wrote him while he was on the floor for the Speaker’s race earlier this month. His staff took his children to his office when they started getting “antsy” during the protracted election, the congressman said.
“They started drawing and I want to show you one thing that I’ve kept, which is a note from my 4-year-old that says ‘Hi daddy, I love you, I will give you hugs and kisses when you get home, from Alessia,’” Goldman said, showcasing the note.
“I keep that right by my desk every day, just as a reminder of what really is important in life. And it may be that we are here trying to represent our districts, represent the people of the United States in the best way possible — including advocating for important legislation like the Child Tax Credit, like universal child care, like paid family leave — but what really keeps us grounded and motivated and focused is our children,” he added.
Kim told a story of when he found out he did not have any paid parental leave while working at the State Department.
“When I found out that my wife was pregnant, I went down and talked to HR and I asked them what kind of paid parental leave do I have in the government, and was told you got nothing, zero, zero days. Even though I served my country in Afghanistan and elsewhere, I had zero days,” he said.
“I just felt so disrespected, just felt like this was something that was just holding parents back — moms and dads — in that way,” he added.