Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander is worried that the Paycheck Fairness Act -- a bill designed to ensure equal pay -- will hurt men. "Take me through exactly what would have to happen, with a specific example of a man and woman, where a man is being paid less than the woman," Alexander asked during a Senate hearing. "Because this law is not just about women -- it's about men and women."
Senate Democrats are moving forward with their election-year "Fair Shot" agenda, including popular bills intended to make life a little more difficult for the Senate Republican minority. First up is the Paycheck Fairness Act, which GOP policymakers have already killed twice -- once in 2010 and again in 2012.
For those who may need a refresher, 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 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 and Dems consider it an important part of their agenda.
It's not surprising that Republican opposition will likely kill the bill for a third time, but I am struck by the arguments some in the GOP have come up with.
Under the status quo, women receive unequal pay for equal work -- for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents. Alexander isn't just opposed to a legislation intended to address wage discrimination, he also wants to know what men will get out of it?
The answer isn't complicated: men will get a more just society for all. Isn't that enough?
Perhaps the more salient point to consider is why pay equity has become such a problematic issue for much of the Republican Party.
Two weeks ago, Cari Christman, the executive director of a political action committee for Texas Republican women, got the ball rolling when she struggled to explain her party’s opposition to pay-equity laws. She said women don’t need measures like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, in part because “women are extremely busy.”
Soon after, Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Texas Republican Party, said women are to blame for receiving unequal pay for equal work. She argued that if women “become better negotiators,” the problem will take care of itself.
Last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) appeared on msnbc and seemed annoyed by the entire subject, calling the debate “nonsense,” and urging Democrats to focus on “substantive issues” – as if this issue isn’t substantive at all.
And now Lamar Alexander is worried about men facing gender-based wage discrimination.
Don't be too surprised if pay equity becomes a key element of Democrats' 2014 strategy. Not only are they on the right side of public opinion, but it seems the GOP is struggling badly to address the issue coherently.