It's Pay Equity Day in the United States, a day intended to raise awareness of wage discrimination American women routinely face in the workforce, and an increasingly divisive issue for Democrats and Republicans.
President Obama will issue two consequential executive orders today intended to help address unequal pay for equal work, which will coincide with Senate Democrats pushing a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. For Republicans, who often deny the pay gap exists, this isn't an issue in need of policymakers' attention.
With this in mind, Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee press secretary, talked to msnbc's Mika Brzezinski about the issue this morning, arguing that Republicans recognize that the issue exists, but oppose measures that impose an "unnecessary burden" on employers. This, of course, is a common GOP position -- even if women receive unequal pay for equal work, policymakers should let the free market sort it out eventually.
But arguments like these are something else entirely.
...Kukowski suggested Democrats' recent championing of the equal pay issue was more about political timing than a genuine effort to close the gender wage gap, which she said would be better served by confronting the job market and the economy.
"What we have seen since the President has been in the White House -- they controlled the House, they controlled the Senate, they controlled the White House and they did not do this," Kukowski said. "Instead, what we see is this creeps up every time the Democrats are struggling with their messaging," she added.
Obviously, the RNC press secretary is entitled to make her case against paycheck fairness, but in her msnbc appearance, Kukowski's claim is factually wrong.
The Republican spokesperson told the public that Democrats "did not" pursue the Paycheck Fairness Act when they were in the majority. Kukowski probably should have done a little homework before addressing a national audience about pay equity on Pay Equity Day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) administration in Louisiana picked an unusual fight recently, taking MoveOn.org to federal court, accusing the progressive activist group of violating trademark rules when it put up billboards criticizing Jindal's opposition to Medicaid expansion.
So far, that hasn't turned out well for the Republican governor: a federal judge ruled yesterday afternoon that the Baton Rouge-area billboard is legally permissible.
In his original court filings, [Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne] said the national liberal organization improperly mimicked his office's trade and tourism branding in its satirical billboard posted just outside of the state capital. But U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick disagreed Monday, siding with MoveOn.org in stating the group's free speech rights trumped the state's case.
"The State has failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to curtail MoveOn.org's political speech in favor of protecting of the State's service mark," Dick said in her ruling. She added "irreparable injury" would not be caused to Louisiana's tourism campaign if the ad remained in place.
For those who haven't been following this dispute, Louisiana is one of several red states that refuse to adopt Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that he policy would bring coverage to nearly a quarter of a million low-income residents. It led MoveOn.org to put up a billboard that reads, "LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don't love your health. Gov. Jindal's denying Medicaid to 242,000 people."
The Jindal administration wasn't pleased -- "Louisiana: Pick Your Passion" is the slogan tied to the state's tourism campaign, and it doesn't want the phrasing appropriated by a progressive group targeting the governor. MoveOn.org responded that its political speech is intended as satire and is therefore covered by the First Amendment.
Yesterday, a federal court agreed, offering the governor a reminder about what free speech is.
When politicians get caught in extra-marital dalliances, there's usually a controversy that follows a predictable trajectory. There are the allegations, followed by denials, then apologies, all wrapped up in humiliation. These messes usually last several days, if not weeks.
Rep. Vance McAllister, a Louisiana Republican who's only been in office for about five months, truncated the lifecycle considerably yesterday, going from revelation to contrition over the course of an afternoon.
A married House Republican, who ran on a devout Christian conservative platform, apologized Monday after a video surfaced that reportedly shows him kissing an aide.
"There's no doubt I've fallen short and I'm asking for forgiveness. I'm asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve," said Rep. Vance McAllister in a statement. "Trust is something I know has to be earned." He added, "I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I've disappointed."
The extra-marital romance was first uncovered by a local outlet, the Ouachita Citizen, which obtained a video of McAllister kissing an aide in his district office in late December -- about a month after the congressman won a special election in his Louisiana district.
The exact nature of the relationship is unclear, but it's worth noting that the aide was reportedly removed from the congressman's payroll "during the past 24 hours."
Complicating matters a little more, it appears the aide and her husband were generous McAllister campaign contributors.
As a general rule, I tend to believe these incidents are private matters, but the standards for scrutiny change when hypocrisy is involved.
It wasn't easy, it took nearly four months of negotiations, and the bill failed several attempts at passage, but the Senate finally approved an extension of federal unemployment benefits late yesterday afternoon.
The Senate voted 59-38 to pass a five-month extension that would retroactively restore federal benefits to an estimated 2.3 million Americans who are long-term unemployed. The vote was a victory for Sens. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, who've spent more than three months trying to persuade a small group of GOP senators to break with their party to support an extension.
Democrats retooled the bill to satisfy Senate Republicans, who demanded that the benefits be paid for. The $10 billion cost is offset by tweaks to federal pension payments and higher customs fees. The bill also prohibits millionaires from receiving benefits
The final roll call is online here. Note that while the vast majority of Senate Republicans opposed the bipartisan compromise, the bill picked up six GOP votes en route to passage. The measure enjoyed unanimous Democratic support.
President Obama is eager to sign the bill and has lobbied repeatedly for its passage, but the legislation will first go to the Republican-led House, where it's odds are, well, not good.
But before we simply assume the bill has no chance at all, it's worth appreciating the nuances, because it's still possible we'll see some action on this.
Army releases detailed account of Fort Hood shooting rampage. (NY Times) Congressman who campaigned on family values apologizes after video surfaces of him kissing a woman who is not his wife. (The Hill) Today is the deadline for TX lawmakers to turn over emails in voter ID lawsuit. (Huffington Post) House Panel set to refer ex-IRS official Lois Lerner's case to the Justice Department. (WSJ) GOP solution to the 'war on women': women. (Politico) read more
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