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Republican Senators Block Paycheck Fairness Act

Robin Marty

As expected, the entire Republican body worked together to block an up or down vote.

Despite pressure from women’s groups, Democrats, and their own constituents, Senate Republicans voted once more to allow employers to continue the policies and practices responsible for women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same job.

The Paycheck Fairness Act failed in a 52 to 47 vote, with every Republican senator voting against the bill.  Except for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who voted no on the bill in order to allow it to be brought back to the floor at a later time, each Democratic senator voted for passage, and they were joined by Independent Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Saunders of Vermont.

Women’s organizations instantly condemned the Republicans’ refusal to pass the bill. The National Organization for Women (NOW) said via statement:

The Senate’s failure to agree to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act is a direct blow to working women and their families. It is unacceptable that women are still paid, on average, 77 cents for every dollar paid to men…The people of this country, women and men alike, believe in fair pay. The politicians who voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act will pay a price at the polls…

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The National Women’s Law Center also expressed disappointment in the vote. National Women’s Law Center Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger said,

“Today, because of a determined minority who insisted on filibustering the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Senate failed to stand up for millions of working women who continue to lose, on average, $10,784 in wages every year. At a time when the economic recovery remains fragile, and nearly 40 percent of mothers are primary breadwinners, women’s lost wages represent basic necessities—like food, housing, health insurance and child care—that families need to survive. A woman and her family can hardly afford to be denied equal pay….It’s a sad day in America when senators worry more about bosses who insist on paying women less than about the rights of women themselves to equal pay.”

Republican female Senators Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Susan Collins, and Kelly Ayotte all chose party loyalty over equity, as did Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who’s spokesperson said he was concerned the bill “will put more burdens on small businesses and could lead to job losses at a time when our economy can least afford it.”

Brown’s challenger, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is unlikely to let the issue rest.

“With his vote, Scott Brown is telling the women of Massachusetts he thinks it’s okay that they continue to earn less than men with the same education doing the same work,” Warren said. “His vote is costing Massachusetts families hard earned dollars that they can’t afford to lose in these tough times.”

Warren won’t be the only one hammering an opponent over the vote. President Barack Obama also made it clear that tools to help close the wage gap will continue to be a priority for him while he is in office.

“It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families,” Obama said in a statement after the vote.

“My Administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right for equal pay for equal work, as we rebuild our economy so that hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, and every American gets a fair shot to succeed.”

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