With all of the attention focused on the Wisconsin recall election, much less attention was paid to a Senate vote that revealed just how real the war against women is in Congress.
Yesterday, Senate Republicans were successful in blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act, with not one member of the GOP voting for the bill in the 52-47 vote — which falls short of the 60 votes needed to move the legislaton forward. (Recovering U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) did note vote on the bill.)
This is a repeat of what happened in 2010 when the bill, then sponsored by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) again had majority support of the Senate, but was still killed by a Republican filibuster and 'no' votes from every GOP senator in the chamber.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to prove that wage gaps between genders are based on valid factors, i.e. education, more experience, etc., and would hold employers accountable for breaking sex discrimination laws, making them liable for damages — either punitive or compensatory. The bill would also make it impossible for employers to get back at employees who discuss, disclose or inquire about wages as a result of an investigation or complaint.
Republicans refuse to get behind the bill, arguing that the 1963 Equal Pay Act and 1964 Civil Rights Act adequately cover wage fairness issues. Meanwhile, women continue to make about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. According to a White House Statement of Administrative Policy (PDF) released on Monday, "women of color [are] at an even greater disadvantage with 64 cents on the dollar for African American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women. As more and more American families rely on women's wages for a significant portion of their income, the pay gap hurts not only women, but the families that depend on them."
Meanhwile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney refuses to take a clear stance on the Paycheck Fairness Act or any other other wage protection legislation.
“Anyone who has a female anywhere in their family working — a mother, a wife, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, whoever they might be — needs to really look at the elections that are coming up and really know if that person has your best interest,” said Lilly Ledbetter, who is the namesake of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. “I do not understand why Mitt Romney can’t commit — he will not commit to whether or not he would support the Ledbetter bill."
“He should show some leadership and tell his fellow Republicans that opposing fair pay for all Americans is shameful,” added U.S. Sen. Reid, according to ABC News. “But as usual, no one knows today where he stands on this issue. Tomorrow he may be standing someplace else.”
The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Obama signed into law, helped tackle the issue of paycheck fairness, but only covers one area of the issue as it provides workers the right to take legal measures against wage discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act would address the larger issue of ensuring equal pay for all — which Republicans, apparently, feel is not necessary as seen by their recent voting record on the matter.
Democrats, nonetheless, plan to continue to fight for the bill, with its sponsor U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) applying lipstick to her lips after the vote and telling the press: “I’m putting my lipstick back on and I am combat ready to keep on fighting.”