Senate Debating Paycheck Fairness Act Monday, But Republicans Remain Opposed to Fair Pay
The Senate will debate the motion to proceed on the Paycheck Fairness Act Monday afternoon. Of course, the motion to proceed is expected to fail on Tuesday, so for all intents and purposes this is the debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Once it's over, Mitt Romney can heave a sigh of relief that he's managed to avoid going on the record about yet another important issue.
Republicans are attempting to use Democrats' past claims on the importance of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act against the Paycheck Fairness Act effort:
Republicans last week cited several quotes from President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying that the Ledbetter law equalized pay for women in America, implying that the new Paycheck Fairness Act is simply a vehicle to score political points against Republicans.
In reality, of course, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was an important step forward, but only a very partial one the importance of which has at times been oversold by Democratic leaders. From the moment it passed, though, many women's groups, labor groups, and other Democratic officials were pushing for it to be followed by the more complete fix of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Since Democrats held a Senate vote on that bill in late 2010, Republican efforts to paint this week's vote as some kind of newfound support for Paycheck Fairness based only in politics and not at all in policy are seriously undercut by facts.
As Bryce Covert argues, the Paycheck Fairness Act is both good politics and good policy. As policy:
The gender wage gap has barely budged in recent decades, and the bill aims to help reduce it by ensuring that employees are allowed to talk to each other about their wages. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that nearly half of all workers are either forbidden or strongly discouraged from sharing that information, yet “pay secrecy makes it difficult for women and men to find out whether they are paid fairly, and undermines attempts to reduce the gender wage gap.”
Politically, Covert argues, passing Paycheck Fairness could not only mobilize women, and especially unmarried women, to vote, and vote for the party that fought for pay equity, it could, in the long term, increase women's power in the political process by giving them more money to contribute to candidates—an unfortunately key means of gaining political clout in our system.
All of these reasons, policy and political, to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, though, are seen by Republican politicians as reasons to oppose it fiercely. It's a convergence of their wars on women and workers, aiming to give women more power (opposed by Republicans) in the workplace (opposed again by Republicans).