A vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate today in a party line vote of 52-47, falling short to the 60 votes needed to move forward.
The act would have attempted to close loopholes that still exist that keep women earning less than men for the same work. Not a single Republican voted for the bill, a point that Democrats will most certainly use as a political tool in the latest chapter in the so-called “war on women.”
To add some drama to a vote which everyone knew was headed toward failure, Congressional Democrats trotted out the face of equal pay, Lily Ledbetter, the namesake of the Lily Ledbetter equal pay law, who watched the vote on the bill fail from the Senate gallery.
“Anyone who has a female anywhere in their family working — a mother, a wife, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, whoever they might be — needs to really look at the elections that are coming up and really know if that person has your best interest,” Ledbetter said, framing today’s vote in the context of the 2012 election. “I do not understand why Mitt Romney can’t commit — he will not commit to whether or not he would support the Ledbetter bill. And he’s scaring me to death because it cannot be repealed, because it’s a disaster if he does.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also singled out Romney for his apparent lack of an opinion on this issue.
“He should show some leadership and tell his fellow Republicans that opposing fair pay for all Americans is shameful,” Reid said today. “But as usual, no one knows today where he stands on this issue. Tomorrow he may be standing someplace else.”
Republicans were against the bill because they believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 already have broad coverage over paycheck fairness.
They believe the act, described as being “the next step” bringing the Lily Ledbetter law “up to date,” would have allowed the government to “second-guess” employee wages and encourage lawsuits. They also claimed the bill would violate employee privacy by allowing employees to reveal their colleagues’ wages or salaries and that that the bill could eliminate employee pay incentive programs, because such programs, by design, pay some workers more than others.
One lone Republican, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., spoke out against the bill publicly on the Senate floor.
“Pay discrimination based upon gender is unacceptable,” Heller said. “Despite the political rhetoric around here, everyone agrees on this fact. The question is will the Paycheck Fairness Act actually address workplace inequality? And the simple answer is no.”
Heller said the legislation would be a “windfall” for trial lawyers opening the door to “frivolous” lawsuits. “Instead of holding votes designed for press releases, let’s resolve our nation’s problems,” Heller said, “Congress can strengthen the equal pay act without handing trial lawyers a blank check.”
Democrats highlighted the Republicans’ silence on this issue.
“He is the only Republican — the only Republican — that came to speak today,” Reid said of Heller. “Why? Because they have nothing to say. And all due respect to my friend Dean Heller, he would’ve been better off if he said nothing.”
Senate Democrats today vowed to keep fighting to get this bill passed.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the bill’s sponsor, put on a coat of lipstick from the press podium after the vote and declared, “I’m putting my lipstick back on and I am combat ready to keep on fighting.”