Paycheck Fairness Act is defeated in Senate

by Daniel Strauss
06/05/12


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Democratic legislation meant to fight gender discrimination in the workplace went down in the Democrat-controlled Senate Tuesday.

Democratic legislation meant to fight gender discrimination in the workplace failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate Tuesday on a procedural vote.

In a 52 to 47 tally the Senate defeated the Paycheck Fairness Act. The legislation aimed to increase protections for women filing gender-discrimination lawsuits, as well as create a federal grant program to improve women's salary negotiating skills. 

The vote came down strictly along party lines, with the two independent senators voting with Democrats and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) not voting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed his vote so that he could bring the bill up again. 

The bill's defeat came after Democrats made a tightly coordinated media blitz to call for the bill's passage. President Obama, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-M.d.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rosa Delauro (D-Conn.) all held conference calls expressing strong support for the legislation. But Republicans strongly opposed the bill, leaving Democrats short of the seven votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Democrats said the paycheck bill's defeat is the latest example of a Republican war on women.

It is a very sad day here in the United States Senate, but it's a sadder day every day when paycheck day comes and women continue to make less than men, Mikulski said after the vote. We're sorry that this vote occurred strictly on party lines.

President Obama accused Republicans of putting partisan politics ahead of women and their families. 

It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families, Obama said in a statement. 

Despite the progress that has been made over the years, women continue to earn substantially less than men for performing the same work. My Administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right for equal pay for equal work, as we rebuild our economy so that hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, and every American gets a fair shot to succeed, he added.

Senate Republicans argued that the measure does not strengthen laws fighting gender discrimination in the workplace and instead just creates more bureaucracy.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced an alternative to the Paycheck Fairness Act, called the End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act. Both the paycheck bill and Heller's bill include protections for women asking about salaries to try to find if they are being discriminated against, but Heller's bill does not include a provision in the Paycheck Fairness Act that allows the federal government to collect salary information to monitor possible pay discrimination. Heller's bill also does not include federal grants to help women improve their salary-negotiating skills.

Let me be clear, pay discrimination based on gender is unacceptable, Heller said Tuesday, before the vote. Despite the political rhetoric around here, everyone agrees on this fact. The question is, will the Paycheck Fairness Act actually address workplace inequality? And the simple answer is no.

Outside business groups like the Chamber of Commerce also expressed opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act. On Monday the chamber sent out a letter stating that it strongly opposes the measure and urged lawmakers to vote against it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in voting against the bill, GOP senators were ignoring broad public support for the measure, including among Republicans. 

This is a common-sense measure with broad public support. Nine out of 10 Americans – including 81 percent of men and 77 percent of Republicans – support this legislation, Reid said. But once again, the only Republicans who are left opposing a common-sense measure to improve our economy and help middle-class families are the ones here in Washington.Democrats argued that not...


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