In Washington, some bad ideas never die, they just get reintroduced.

So it is with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which President Bush courageously vetoed last year. That should have been the end of this intrusive, if well-meaning, legislation. But it has since been revived by a congressional opposition eager to score points against a popular president.The pros and cons of the issue are discussed in two columns on this page. At first glance, federally mandated leave might seem to bolster family life and strengthen job security. But take a closer look.

In point of fact, the bill would bring the heavy hand of the federal government into matters traditionally reserved unto private employers and employees, while bringing little relief to those it is supposedly designed to help.

As it is now written, Scripps Howard News Service reports, the bill would require all businesses with 50 employees or more to grant 12 weeks annually of unpaid leave, with continued medical benefits, to any employee at the time of childbirth, adoption or a family medical emergency. Any employee unfairly denied such benefits could collect four times their dollar amount, plus attorney's fees. What a bonanza for lawyers.

There are other problems. If the government requires certain kinds of employee benefits, other benefits must be dropped to pay for them; that's simple economics. What about older workers, or workers without children, who have no need for mandated parental leave? They'll have to grin and bear it.

Only the more affluent workers could afford to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The families truly at risk are those whose members work outside the home for reasons of economic subsistence. Twelve weeks without pay would be an indulgence beyond their means.

If Congress truly wants to help these families, it should concentrate on reducing the tax burdens that have driven many parents to the workplace. But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Meanwhile, President Bush had better get ready to exercise his veto again.