Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Democratic-backed bill that aims to combat unequal pay between men and women.
The measure failed in a 53-44 vote, falling short of the 60 votes it needed to advance. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – who supports the bill – voted against it so he could bring the bill back to the floor later, NBC News’ Kasie Hunt reported.
The vote was strictly along party lines, with all present Republicans voting against the measure, along with one Independent, Maine Sen. Angus Kaine. All Democrats, along with Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, voted in favor of it. This is the third time the bill has failed, following defeats in 2010 and 2012.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to disclose payment and demographic information and prevent them from punishing workers who discuss their salaries. It would also allow civil pay discrimination lawsuits to be filed against employers.
Republicans opposed the bill, arguing it would encourage “frivolous” lawsuits and deprive women of workplace flexibility.
On Tuesday, Republican leaders and the Republican National Committee slammed the bill, calling it “left’s latest bizarre obsession” and “a desperate political ploy.”
"At a time when the Obama economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss, all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers," Kentucky’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote Wednesday. "In other words, it's just another Democratic idea that threatens to hurt the very people that it claims to help."
Reid hit back.
"Are they so repulsed by equal pay for hardworking women that they'll obstruct equal pay for equal work?" he said Wednesday ahead of the vote. "I'm at a loss as to why anyone would decline to debate this important issue."
After the vote, Democrats insisted they would keep up the fight.
“This isn’t over,” said Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. “Equal pay for equal work is going to remain at the forefront of our agenda in the months ahead, and we aren’t going to let Republicans off the hook on an issue this important.”
The National Partnership for Women and Families said in a statement after the vote, “It is inexcusable that partisanship and baseless attacks have blocked this common sense bill."