It was in Bill Clinton's second term when Democrats first rallied behind the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to address the lingering gender pay gap. After years of effort, the party very nearly passed the measure in 2010, when 58 senators supported it and 41 opposed it -- though thanks to the way the modern Senate operates, that meant the bill failed.
Dems are still trying. Republicans still won't budge.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked debate on a bill to combat pay discrimination against women and L.G.B.T.Q. workers, the first in a series of votes set up by Democratic leaders this month to highlight the power of the filibuster to stop even the consideration of legislation.
Every Senate Democrat supported the legislation, and they needed at least 10 Senate Republicans to break ranks in order to overcome a GOP filibuster. They fell 10 short: zero Republicans backed the proposal. Even the ostensible "moderates" stuck with their conservative allies.
This was a procedural vote to begin a debate in the chamber over the pay-equity bill. For the GOP minority, there was no need to proceed with a discussion over a measure they knew they'd oppose anyway.
It was only the second time this year that Republicans successfully derailed legislation that enjoyed majority support. The first came two weeks ago, when GOP senators rejected a bipartisan proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack.
But let's not brush past the fact that this bill has real merit. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Barack Obama signed into law in early 2009, 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. As regular readers may recall, the Paycheck Fairness Act is a broader measure.
As the New York Times noted, the proposal would require employers "to prove that pay disparities between men and women are job related and would strengthen the hand of plaintiffs filing class-action lawsuits that challenge pay discrimination."
A recent CNBC report added that the Paycheck Fairness Act would also "make it illegal for employers to ask employees about their salary history in the hiring process" and would "protect workers from facing retaliation if they discuss their salary with co-workers."
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who's helped champion the measure for years, said yesterday, "There's absolutely nothing controversial about making sure every worker gets paid fairly for their work."
Yesterday, literally every Senate Republican made clear they disagree.