During last week's debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, congressional Republicans insisted they were wholly unconcerned about facing a public backlash over killing the bill. In fact, they kept talking about how unfazed they were, over and over again, raising questions as to whether they were trying to convince us or themselves.
Over the weekend, perhaps unfamiliar with the phrase "doth protest too much," congressional Republicans continued to show just how unconcerned they are about the pay-equity debate by devoting their weekly national address to explaining themselves.
The House's highest-ranking female Republican sought to rebuff criticism over a move by Senate GOP lawmakers this week to block equal pay legislation."I have always supported equal pay for equal work," said Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) in Saturday's weekly Republican address.
She added that existing laws are adequate in addressing wage discrimination before arguing, "[F]or women across American, it's not just about equal pay. It's about achieving a better life." The entirety of McMorris Rodgers' address is online here.
At this point, it appears the two sides of the debate are talking past one another. Democrats are saying, "Congress should approve remedies to prevent, discourage, and address unequal pay for equal work," to which Republicans keep replying, "We support equal pay for equal work."
But the asymmetry between them remains a problem. It's certainly nice that GOP policymakers support equal pay for equal work -- literally no one on Capitol Hill is running around publicly endorsing wage discrimination against women -- but the posture misses the point. The debate isn't about whether pay equity is worthwhile, but rather, how best to work towards the goal.
For Democrats, policies like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Paycheck Fairness Act -- two measures McMorris Rodgers and nearly all of her GOP colleagues voted to kill -- would represent important steps forward. Republicans, meanwhile, propose very little -- existing laws and the free market might someday work things out.
The conservative party continued to show just how unfazed it is by this debate by dispatching Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to "Face the Nation" yesterday, where she said Republicans are "for equal pay," but dismissed legislative remedies as "condescending."
That word keeps coming up. I don't think it means what the right thinks it means.
The Tennessee Republican added:
"The White House paying women 88 cents for every dollar that a guy earns in comparable positions? They need to go clean up their own act first," she said.
I'm not sure how much facts still matter in this debate, but for what it's worth, Blackburn's claim is factually wrong. A study recently tallied the salaries of all White House employees and found that men earned more than women, not because of discriminatory policies, but because, at least of now, there were more men in higher-paying positions.
That said, this White House is far better on this front than congressional Republicans and the previous administration, and contrary to Blackburn's on-air claim, it does not apply to staffers in "comparable positions."