Two years ago, Democrats brought the Paycheck Fairness Act to the Senate floor, and thought they had a credible shot at passing the bill. Ultimately, 58 senators supported it and 41 opposed it -- which, thanks to the way the modern Senate operates, means the bill failed. (The chamber's GOP "moderates" -- Scott Brown, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe -- all joined the filibuster that killed the bill.
This year, Democrats are giving it another try, with a vote slated for next week.
Given the larger context, and the Republicans' "war on women" in 2012, is there any chance the proposal might get the supermajority needed to overcome GOP obstructionism? It's a long shot, though the legislation clearly makes Republicans, including their ostensible leader, nervous.
Business groups are opposed to the new legislation, saying it would create a legal morass -- but Mr. Romney, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, has been silent.His campaign didn't respond to five messages left over the past week seeking his stance on the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Keep in mind, the Washington Times is a conservative paper -- roughly the print equivalent of Fox News -- that can usually get its calls returned by Republican candidates.
But Romney, who also refused to state a firm opinion on the Violence Against Women Act, is suddenly shy once more. If he sides with Democrats in support of the measure, Romney undercuts his allies on Capitol Hill, as well as friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is lobbying to kill the bill. If he sticks with this party, Romney risks exacerbating the already-large gender gap, taking yet another position that's hostile towards women's interests.
So he refuses to respond to the Washington Times' phone calls.
For those unfamiliar with the substance behind the legislation, 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.
President Obama is a strong supporter of the legislation.
With women still only making 77 cents for every dollar men earn in similar jobs, the question may soon become why the Republican presidential candidate seems indifferent to the problem.