The vote was a strict party line vote with the two independent senators voting with Democrats and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill) abstaining.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) sharply criticized the vote, especially because the bill has widespread support. But like so many other matters with Republicans, they simply wouldn’t let it get a fair vote. “This was a missed opportunity for the Senate to do the right thing for women and the nation,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “When women are paid less, it hurts them and their families, and it undermines the U.S. economy. How lawmakers can turn down this commonsense economic policy is truly a mystery.”
By some estimates, women could lose up to $1 million over a 40-year career because of the pay gap. In higher-paying fields such as law, the disparity can result in even greater lifetime losses. Individual choices can affect the gender pay gap, but these choices are not the whole story — and, of course, these “choices” themselves are constrained by stereotype and discrimination. AAUW’s report Behind the Pay Gap controlled for factors known to affect earnings such as education and training, parenthood, and hours worked and found that college-educated women still earn less than men — despite having the same major and occupation as their male counterparts.
“Equal pay should not be a partisan issue. In fact, before the Senate took up the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2010, equal pay was something on which we could all agree. Previous bills brought to the floor with the goal of equal pay for equal work passed with bipartisan votes — until now.” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. “Women feel the sting of unfair pay all the time — at the grocery store, at the gas station, and in retirement. This isn’t political to them; it’s just common sense. And it’s that kind of kitchen-table economics that women will take with them to the polls in November.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) would have deterred wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages to co-workers. Currently, employers can penalize and even fire employees for talking about their salaries.
Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families called the vote “deeply troubling” and evidence that Congress “cannot pass measure of critical importance to women and families.”
The special interests who pressured Congress to filibuster the Paycheck Fairness Act may have won today, but the nation lost – and women and families will suffer as a result. Today’s vote is deeply troubling, further evidence that this Congress cannot pass legislation that is critically important to the economic security of women and families and to our nation’s economic recovery. The Paycheck Fairness Act would protect women from discrimination in wages and promote basic fairness in our workplaces. It is appalling that politics have once again trumped women and families – but the fight for fair pay is not over.
It’s a disappointing, though not surprising vote and one that will surely haunt Republicans come November.
Photo from gageskidmore via flickr.