Two years ago, a majority of the Senate supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, but it died at the hands of a Republican filibuster. At the time, every GOP senator, including the so-called “moderates,” not only opposed the legislation, but also refused to even let the bill have an up-or-down vote.
Two years later, the exact same thing happened.
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 salary negotiating skills of women. The vote was strictly along party lines, with the two Independent senators voting with the Democrats and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) not voting.
There were some hopes that less-conservative Republican senators like Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) might break ranks on this one. For that matter, vulnerable Republican incumbents like Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) could have sided with Democrats purely for appearances, knowing that their votes wouldn’t affect the outcome.
Perhaps some of the senators being considered for the Republican vice presidential nomination, such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), or Rob Portman (R-Ohio), might side with women to make themselves more palatable to a national audience? No, they all backed the filibuster and killed the bill, too.
The GOP opposition was as unanimous as it was unyielding, White House lobbying notwithstanding.
For those unfamiliar with the substance behind the legislation, the bill 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.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which we discussed with Ledbetter herself last night, 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.
With women still only making 77 cents for every dollar men earn in similar jobs, the question may soon become why so many Republicans seem indifferent to the problem.