Senate Republicans Unanimously Block Equal Pay Bill

CREDIT: AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans unanimously voted against advancing the Paycheck Fairness Act. Forty-three voted against invoking cloture, joined by Independent Angus King of Maine, while three Republicans didn’t vote.

All Senate Democrats voted in favor, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switching his vote to no so that he could re-introduce the bill later on.

The bill would ban the practice of salary secrecy for all workers, about half of whom say they are either forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay with coworkers. Among federal workers, by contrast, less than 20 percent say the same and the wage gap is much smaller, standing at just 11 percent in 2007, down from 28 percent in 1988. For the general workforce, by contrast, women who work full-time, year-round make 77 percent of what the same men make and progress has all but stalled for a decade.

The bill would also narrow what would count as a legitimate business-related reason for pay disparities between men and women with the same skill, responsibility, and working conditions. It would also increase penalties for those that don’t have reasonable reasons for gaps in pay.

While many Republicans have said they care about the gender wage gap, they have offered few alternatives to legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act. When asked about the party’s alternatives, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee (RNC) dodged questions and could only offer following “best corporate practices” and allowing for more flex time. Some also claim that the 77 percent figure is bogus, but there is lots of evidence that there is an unfair gap between what women and men make.

Anticipating that Congress wouldn’t act on the wage gap, President Obama issued two executive orders on Tuesday aimed at trying to close it. One would ban salary secrecy among federal contractors, changing the dynamic for 22 percent of the workforce. The other would require those contractors to give the Labor Department compensation data broken down by gender and race.