At two appearances in Iowa on Sunday, Sanders called on "every candidate running for president" to give their views on the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. At a college in Indianola, Sanders noted that the New York Democrat succeeded Clinton in the Senate, telling reporters after his speech that his rival needs to explain where she stands
on the issue.
Sanders wants Clinton to endorse a tax hike, a matter of interest to him on policy and political grounds.
Gillibrand's bill would increase the payroll taxes for workers and companies by 0.2%, or about $1.38 a week for the median wage earner. Sanders is comfortable with that increase and has acknowledged that some of his proposals will require tax increases for middle income earners.
Clinton and her aides have used that admission to knock the independent Vermont senator.
"Hard working, middle-class families need a raise, not a tax increase," Clinton said during the Democratic debate Sunday, arguing that she can implement her vision "without raising the debt, without raising taxes on the middle class."
Brian Fallon, Clinton's press secretary, said before the debate that Clinton "fundamentally rejects the idea that we should be willing to raise taxes on middle-class households. We need to raise these families' incomes, not their taxes."
This line of contrast frustrates Sanders and his aides, who think Clinton is talking about paid family leave, but not detailing her plans.
"What is her program? What does she intend to do other than talk about it?" Sanders told the Des Moines Register. "If she thinks $1.38 a week is just too much to spend, let her explain that to the people of Iowa."
Clinton has long been supportive of a 12-week paid family leave program and has used the issue to repeatedly knock Republicans. But Clinton has not outright endorsed Gillibrand's bill and has only said she will detail her plan in the future.
"Hillary Clinton has already said she supports 12 weeks of paid family leave," a Clinton aide said Monday, "but she supports a different way to pay for it and so will be outlining additional ideas for ensuring the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share."
But that hasn't stopped Clinton from touting Gillibrand's efforts on paid family leave.
At the first Democratic debate in October, Clinton name-checked Gillibrand, who has endorsed her campaign and attended the debate on her behalf.
"I see my good friend, Senator Gillibrand, in the front row," Clinton said. "She's been a champion of this. We need to get a consensus through this campaign, which is why I'm talking about it everywhere I go, and we need to join the rest of the advanced world in having it."