Senate Republicans did it again: They blocked a measure backed by President Barack Obama that would have strengthened equal pay protections for women. Counting procedural votes, it's the fourth time Republicans have voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act since 2012.
The only surprise was that they gave Democrats the political fodder of allowing another vote to proceed on the bill — and that the GOP did so in a midterm election year when women voters are one major key to obtaining and retaining control of the Senate and House.
Republicans say they oppose the bill because it makes it easier to sue corporations over allegations of pay inequity, or, in their view, encourages frivolous lawsuits. Politico reported that Senate Republicans allowed the Paycheck Fairness Act to proceed as an apparent way to choose the lesser political evil: "To eat up Senate floor time and disrupt planned votes on raising the minimum wage and responding to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby contraception decision." Both are key Democratic campaign issues.
Minutes after the 52 to 40 vote, Democrats linked it to Republicans running in tight Senate races, whether they actually voted today or not.
"Rep. Tom Cotton, former Senator Scott Brown, Speaker Thom Tillis, Rep. Bill Cassidy, David Perdue, Rep. Cory Gardner, Terri Lynn Land, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, and others have extensive records of longstanding opposition to paycheck fairness that has hurt countless women across the country," read a statement from Justin Barasky, communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He was referring to Senate races in Arkansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan, and West Virginia — all of which are crucial to Democrats retaining control of the Senate.
Democratic National Committee chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, "Once again, Republicans refused to join with Democrats to ensure that women are paid fairly and that they have the legal tools they need to fight pay discrimination when it occurs. Some GOP Senators have even gone beyond opposing the legislation to belittling the very idea of voting on Paycheck Fairness, calling it a waste of time, and a show vote. Sadly, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Republicans continue to put rigid partisanship before what’s best for the people that elected them."
Women's groups also jumped in to condemn Republicans.
"Today Senate Republicans had an opportunity to vote for equal pay legislation and affect real change for hardworking women, but they chose to show their true priorities once again by clinging to their extreme agenda at the expense of the millions of women and families counting on them, said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List.
And Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU senior legislative counsel and co-chair of the National Paycheck Fairness Act Coalition, noted that, "Pay equity is not a partisan issue, and paying women what they have already rightfully earned is good for them, for the nation’s economy, and for American businesses’ bottom lines. The fact that the Senate finally allowed debate on equal pay is a step in the right direction, but women workers need more than words when the next Congress takes up the Paycheck Fairness Act.”