Today, Republicans in the Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act by filibustering the bill. The legislation would have strengthened protections for women who are being paid less because of their gender by creating larger penalties for employers who discriminate, creating more transparency of salaries so that women know whether they are being paid less, and protecting those who sue for pay equity.
Republicans framed the measure as a useless bureaucratic roadblock that would have hindered free enterprise and helped trial lawyers. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) called the bill a “war on free enterprise.” But Heller’s record on women’s issues is far from stellar: He previously voted against Paycheck Fairness when he was in the House of Representatives and also voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair pay act, another pay equity bill.
Pay discrimination isn’t some fantasy of the left — it actually prevents families from higher earnings. On average, women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. And that’s happening while more women are becoming the primary breadwinners or dual-earners in their family and a larger number of women with high degrees entering the job market.
Over her lifetime, the average woman loses enough in wages to feed a family of four for 37 years.
The Paycheck Fairness Act has become an election issue, as well. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), who is challenging Heller, cited his opposition as a sign that he is one of the warriors in the ongoing battle to destroy women’s rights. In Missouri, the Senatorial candidates have also butted heads on Paycheck Fairness (all three Republican candidates opposed the bill). And in the Presidential election, President Obama has come out strongly in favor of the bill, while Mitt Romney has kept silent on the issue.
The measure was blocked by a 52-47 vote. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was absent for medical reasons. Majority Harry Reid switched his vote so that the bill could come up for another vote at some point down the road.