Where The Presidential Candidates Stand On Equal Pay


Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day by which women’s earnings catch up to what men earned in a single year last year, given that the gender wage gap means that women who work full-time, year-round made 78 percent of what men make. It also comes as presidential hopefuls are announcing campaigns for 2016, so where do they all stand on this particular issue?

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

Announced candidates

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)


Cruz claims that equal pay for equal work has “been the law for decades” despite agreeing that women face hurdles in the workplace. While he didn’t cast a vote helping his party to block the Paycheck Fairness Act in April of 2014, a bill that would ban employers from telling employees not to talk about pay and narrow what counts as business justifications for gender pay gaps, he voted against it later that year when Republican Senators once again unanimously blocked it and has called it a “trial lawyer bonanza.” He has also called the Democrats’ push for the bill “political show votes” and said that President Obama’s executive order banning salary secrecy for federal contractors distracted from more important issues for women.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Paul has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act multiple times. He also compared the Paycheck Fairness Act to the Soviet Politburo dictating wages and the prices of goods, saying, “setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea” and “The minute you set up a fairness czar to determine what wages are, you give away freedom.” He added that it’s better when “the marketplace decides what wages are.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)

After former Sen. Tom Daschle, who originally introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, left the Senate, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton became the main sponsor of the bill. Lisa Maatz, vice president at AAUW who worked with her on the bill during that time, said Clinton had a team conduct an in-depth analysis of the bill that hadn’t been done yet. “It was clear she had given her staff the sense that this was a priority for her,” Maatz said. It was the only bill she introduced in the short time between President Obama’s swearing in and her departure for the State Department. She also co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which gives women more time to bring wage discrimination complaints, and was part of a group of senators that called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the administration of President George W. Bush was enforcing equal pay laws, resulting in a report saying that it wasn’t properly monitoring them. And she has put equal pay into practice while she was a senator, with median pay putting men and women on her staff on equal footing, and women on staff earning slightly more on average.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

While Rubio has said he thinks women should be paid the same as men as a “principle,” he called the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act “nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits.” He also said Democrats pushing for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act are only wasting time on “scoring political points” and that the bill is “a welfare plan for trial lawyers.” He voted against it twice last year.

Likely candidates

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R)

When Bush was asked about the Paycheck Fairness Act in October, he first responded, “What’s the Paycheck Fairness Act?” After the reporter explained it to him, he said, “Equal pay for the same work, not for equal work — I think that’s the problem with it. I think there’s a definition issue.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sanders has voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act and said of the opposition to it, “If the U.S. Senate had 80 women rather than 80 men as it does now, his bill would pass immediately.” He lists pay equity as one of the issues on his website.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)

In 2012, Christie was sent four bills relating to equal pay, and he signed one, requiring employers to notify their workers that they have the right to be free from pay and benefits discrimination, while issuing provisional vetoes on two and an absolute veto on a fourth. In vetoing the last bill, which would require government contractors to report compensation information broken down by gender, he called it “senseless bureaucracy.” One of the conditionally vetoed bills, which protects employees who share wage information, has since been changed and he later signed it into law.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D)

O’Malley signed the Maryland Lilly Ledbetter Civil Rights Restoration Act into law while in office, which gave state residents more time to file wage discrimination lawsuits. He has also already talked a lot about his support for measures that address the gender wage gap, from his current speeches in Iowa to a Huffington Post blog post. He has touted the fact that Maryland has one of the smallest wage gaps for women and recently raised its minimum wage as one way to help address continuing disparities.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)

In 2012, Walker signed a law overturning the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which gave workers more power to press charges against unfair wage disparities in state court, rather than costly federal court. He has since said the reasoning behind his move is that “It is against the law to discriminate against women for employment and to pay them less than you pay men, and it will continue to be.” A 2014 campaign dismissed criticism of this move, saying the law had simply given women “more opportunity to sue,” and he has said it is a “bogus issue.”


This post has been updated with an equal pay bill signed into law by O’Malley.