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.
Senate Democrats have brought up the Paycheck Fairness Act three times over three Congresses. In each instance, the Senate Republican minority killed the proposal, though last week offered a little something different.
Last Wednesday, on a procedural vote to advance a debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, 19 Senate Republicans broke ranks and voted to end their party's filibuster, which is 19 more GOP votes than the Paycheck Fairness Act has ever received. A sign of possible progress?
Apparently not. As msnbc's Irin Carmon reported last night:
The final roll call is online here. Note that while 19 Senate Republicans voted with Democrats on a procedural step last week, literally zero GOP senators supported the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday afternoon.
The apparent contradiction is easy to explain: Republicans voted to extend debate on the bill last week, not because they supported it, but because they were trying to waste time, eating up the clock on the Senate's limited pre-election schedule. If the GOP had killed the measure quickly, it would have meant moving on to something else Republicans don't like, so they dragged out the fight on the Paycheck Fairness Act, simply because they could.
In case anyone needs a refresher, the Paycheck Fairness Act is a perfectly credible piece of legislation that 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.”
As we’ve discussed, 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.
Republicans have responded that they endorse the idea of equal pay for equal work, but in recent years, much of the party remains opposed to policymakers’ efforts to do something about it, fearing what they call "frivolous lawsuits" on unfair treatment in the workplace.