Senate Republicans Block Bill on Equal Pay

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation meant to close the pay gap between men and women, framing an election-year fight between the parties over whose policies are friendlier to women.

The bill was an attempt by Democrats to press what they see as their electoral advantage among women in the coming midterm elections, but they fell short of the 60 votes they needed to prevent a filibuster and advance the legislation.

“For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a floor speech.

Republican lawmakers have said that given existed anti-discrimination laws, the legislation is redundant and is a transparent attempt by Democrats to distract from President Obama’s much-criticized health care law.

Supporters of the bill, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, say it would bring transparency to worker pay by making it illegal for employers to penalize employees who discuss their salaries and by requiring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers.

Mr. Obama signed executive measures on Tuesday that imposed similar requirements on government contractors.

Republican leaders assailed Democrats’ attempt to paint them as unsympathetic to women in the work force. The Senate Republican Conference on Wednesday called the pay equity legislation “the latest ploy in the Democrats’ election-year playbook.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader who is fighting for re-election against a female candidate in Kentucky, said in a floor speech on Wednesday that women had lost ground on Mr. Obama’s watch, with declining wages and growing numbers in poverty.

“In other words,” he said, “when it comes to American women over all, what we’ve seen over the past five and a half years is less income and more poverty. That’s the story Senate Democrats don’t want to talk about.”

The pay equity bill is part of a broader Democratic strategy to appeal to low- and middle-income voters with pocketbook legislation like an increase in the federal minimum wage and an extension of long-term unemployment benefits. Neither of those measures is expected to pass a divided House.

The vote to proceed on the pay equity bill was 53 to 44, six votes short of a filibuster-proof majority after accounting for a no vote by Mr. Reid, a procedural move allowing him bring the bill to the floor again.

From the NY Times

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