The U.S. Senate voted 73-25 on Wednesday to move forward procedurally with the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure that would strengthen protections for women against gender-based pay discrimination.
Senate Republicans blocked the bill when it first came up in April. That action prompted President Obama to sign an executive order granting similar fair-pay protections to employees of federal contractors.
Republicans let the bill move to floor debate this time, but that doesn’t mean they will let it pass. They also refrained from blocking a Constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on campaign finance this week, but neither the bill nor the amendment are remotely popular with the GOP.
Allowing these two measures to move forward one procedural step seems to be a way to tie the Senate up in debate so that it has less time to consider other Democratic legislative priorities. Advancing the Paycheck Fairness Act, for instance, automatically allows 30 hours for debate—time that Republicans would have little reason to yield if they intend to stall.
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“I’d like to say with a straight face that Republicans have done a 180 and now would like to support legislation that gives women and their families a fair shot, but it remains to be seen if they’re truly interested in working with us to get this done,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told Rewire.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would allow workers to discuss their salaries with each other without being punished, make it harder for employers to pay women less than men for the same work, and stiffen civil penalties against employers who discriminate based on gender.
It’s one of several bills Senate Democrats are promoting as part of their “Fair Shot” agenda, which will also include an increase to the minimum wage and a bill to help relieve the burden of student loan debt.
“I’m going to urge my Republican colleagues to say something besides ‘no’ when it comes to higher wages for workers, college affordability, and pay equity,” Murray said on the Senate floor. “Because if they’ve got a reason for opposing legislation that would help women and families get ahead, I think the American people deserve to hear it.”
After the 30 hours of debate triggered by advancing the Paycheck Fairness Act started, Murray spoke about the importance of doing something to fix the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Hobby Lobby case, promoting the “Not My Boss’s Business” bill she co-sponsored and taking Republicans to task for their likely refusal to allow debate on it.
“Unfortunately, the GOP has decided to put the Tea Party ahead of women and have no intention of even allowing debate to fix Hobby Lobby,” Murray said. “I would have hoped the GOP would have spent maybe just a little time talking to women in August.”