With a vote of 52 to 47, today, Republicans in the Senate succesfully blocked a Democratic-backed bill that called for equal pay for women.
But, as the AP reports, passing the bill was not the only intent of Democrats. The bill was obviously intended to draw attention to schism that have developed between the two parties on women’s issues.
“The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., would require employers to prove that differences in pay are based on qualifications, education and other “bona fides” not related to gender. It also would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who ask about, discuss or disclose wages in response to a complaint or investigation. And it would make employers who violate sex discrimination laws liable for compensatory or punitive damages. Under the bill, the federal government would be exempt from punitive damages.
“Proponents of the bill say it is the next step after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Obama signed into law in 2009. The law effectively overturned a Supreme Court decision that had strictly limited workers’ ability to file lawsuits over pay inequity. Ledbetter said she didn’t become aware of her own pay discrepancy until she neared the end of her 1979-1988 career at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in Gadsden, Ala.”
The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was also quick to respond to the vote.
“Of course Gov. Romney supports pay equity for women,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg told the AP. “In order to have pay equity, women need to have jobs, and they have been getting crushed in this anemic Obama economy.”
The Washington Post reports that before the vote, Democratic senators took to the floor to explain why this bill was necessary.
Mikulski, the bill’s sponsor, said the pay gap between the genders is still wide.
“In 1963 we made 59 cents for every dollar that men made. Now it’s 77 cents,” she said, according to the Post. “What does that mean? It means every five years we make an advancement of one penny. Oh no. No more. We’re not just going to take it anymore.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said the legislation would cause more problems than it solves.