At a campaign event last night, Hillary Clinton told voters she’s prepared to “move heaven and earth” to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed and signed into law. The proposal, intended to help protect women from wage discrimination in the workplace, would already be law – President Obama is eager to sign it – but congressional Republicans have killed it in each of the last three Congresses.
Among the GOP lawmakers who’ve contributed to the measure’s defeats is none other than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). ThinkProgress posted an item yesterday, noting what happened when members of the work/family organization Make It Work confronted the Republican senator for an explanation.
[Rubio] indicated that the [pay gap between men and women] shouldn’t even exist today. “It’s already illegal to pay women less than men,” he responded. “If I pay a woman less than a man for the same job, it’s illegal now. You can be sued now.”Though he offered up lawsuits as the remedy for unequal pay, Rubio is against the Paycheck Fairness Act because it would result in more lawsuits. “The Paycheck [Fairness] Act, all it did was allow trial lawyers to sue,” he said. “The reason I voted against it is because … all it really did is just help lawyers sue.”
Rubio has had years to come up with a proper defense for his position, and the fact that this is the best he can come up with is a little surprising.
In case anyone needs a refresher, a New York Times editorial a while back explained that the Paycheck Fairness Act would “enhance the remedies available for victims of gender-based discrimination and require employers to show that wage differences are job-related, not sex-based, and driven by business necessity. The measure would also protect employees from retaliation for sharing salary information, which is important for deterring and challenging discriminatory compensation.”
As we’ve discussed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was an important step forward when it comes to combating discrimination, but it was also narrowly focused to address a specific problem: giving victims of discrimination access to the courts for legal redress. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a broader measure.
And for Rubio, that’s the problem. He’s one of many congressional Republicans who voice enthusiastic support for the idea of equal pay for equal work, even while rejecting proposals to help guarantee that goal.