Meghan Markle Lobbying Senators in Push for Paid Leave Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, speaks onstage during Global Citizen Live, New York, on Sept, 25. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Thursday, 04 November 2021 08:19 AM
Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Susan Collins are saying they answered their phones thinking Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was calling them as the discussions on the Democrats' spending bill continue, only to find Meghan Markle on the other end of the line calling them to lobby for paid family leave in the bill.
"I'm in my car," Capito, R-W.Va., said, Politico reported Thursday. "I’m driving. It says caller ID blocked. Honestly … I thought it was Sen. Manchin. His calls come in blocked. And she goes 'Sen. Capito?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.”
“I couldn’t figure out how she got my number,” Capito said, adding that Markle went on to lobby her on paid family leave.
Meanwhile, Collins, R-Maine, said she got a call from the duchess on her private line while she was at the gym, and thought she was going to speak with Manchin, Politico reports.
"Much to my surprise, she called me on my private line and she introduced herself as the Duchess of Sussex, which is kind of ironic," Collins said. "I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it."
Paid leave was put back into the framework of the spending bill on Wednesday, after initially being pulled off to cut back on its costs. It wasn't reported when the senators heard from the duchess.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has been pushing Democrats to include paid leave in the bill, confirmed that she gave the senators' private numbers to Markle, adding that the duchess has other senators' numbers as well.
"I talked to each of the women senators and let them know that she's going to reach out because she only completed two of the calls," she told Politico. "She's going to call some others, so I let them know in advance."
"She wants to be part of a working group to work on paid leave long term and she's going to be," Gillibrand said of Markle. "Whether this comes to fruition now or later, she'll be part of a group of women that hopefully will work on paid leave together."
Markle, who is from the United States, now lives in California with her husband, Prince Harry, and their children, American-born Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor and British-born Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Even before her phone calls to the senators, she had been advocating for paid family leave, reports ABC News.
Last month, she posted a letter to Congress acknowledging that she and her family don't face the same challenges other families endure but said her family worked hard to provide for her while she was growing up.
"I am, like many, an engaged citizen and a parent," she wrote. "And because you and your congressional colleagues have a role in shaping family outcomes for generations to come, that's why I'm writing to you at this deeply important time — as a mom — to advocate for paid leave."
She pointed out that the pandemic has forced many women to have to leave the workforce and has "exposed long-existing fault lines in our communities…the working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost."
Markle added that many other countries have "robust programs" that allow paid leave for both parents, either birth or adoptive, to stay home with their child, but the United States does not guarantee that benefit.
"Fewer than one in four workers has dedicated paid family leave through their employer," she wrote. "I'm sure you agree that if we are to continue to be exceptional, then we can't be the exception."