Well, it didn’t take long. The Republican Party was handed an historic opportunity with women. For the first time since the advent of exit polling data in 1982, women voters favored the GOP in the 2010 election. A rather shocking occurrence given that just two short years ago, President Obama had a 14-point advantage with women. What does the GOP do with this historic opportunity? Blow it!
Yesterday, the Senate voted 58-41 against allowing debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Not a single Republican voted “yea.” Wise up there GOP — if you have any hopes of taking the White House in 2012, you’ll need women voters. But after shooting down the Paycheck Fairness Act today and perpetuating a boys’ club in Congress, you ain’t showing us much.
Here’s what we know from the 2010 election: issue #1 for women is economic security. That’s why women gave the GOP a once-in-a-generation opportunity to win us over. Absurdly, the Republican Party then turns around and pushes women away by thwarting our financial security. Ya know, us ‘wimminz’ — the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families.
Is the Paycheck Fairness Act perfect? No. Does it solve the disparity of pay that women face? Not totally. But it is a huge step towards women’s financial security. Sadly, here’s what the GOP said to women today: “we don’t believe women deserve to make the same wage as men for doing the same job.” It’s not much more complicated than that. Even if the bill in its current form (which likely no Republican senator actually read) wasn’t nirvana, then bring it to the floor and hash it out.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. And, it’s time for some accountability! Here are the recipients of the Paycheck Fairness Act Coward Awards.
1. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — after courageously going against their party to vote with the Democrats in February 2009 for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, today Senators Snowe and Collins showed that they care more about their 2012 re-elections than women. Cowards!
2. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) — after much ballyhoo as a bipartisan leader for women, including voting for the Fair Pay Act and a joint appearance with Secretary Clinton at the Women’s History Museum, Senator Hutchinson let us down. Coward!
3. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — who also voted for the Fair Pay Act, recently boasted that she will not be beholden to the GOP. She will, however, sell-out women. Standing ovation on the Senate Floor Tuesday – jet set out of town before the vote Wednesday. Coward!
4. Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett (D) (Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls) — progressive blogger Joanne Bamberger said it best on Facebook: President Obama and his advisor Valerie Jarrett have said time and again they are committed to passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act and it was a priority to them. Today, fair pay failed by 2 votes. They couldn’t use their “commitment” to women to get us 2 votes?
It’s unclear which offense is worse: not fighting for women or being completely ineffectual as chair of the White House Council. What is clear: Coward!
5. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) — who has buried the Paycheck Fairness Act since its passage in the House in January 2009. Senator Reid failed to use the momentum of the passage of the Fair Pay Act. Fighter for women? You kidding? Coward!
The only ray of light for women in this fiasco is the continued ascension of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, an unabashed and unapologetic advocate for women. After being written off as an ‘easy target’ in 2010, Senator Gillibrand went on to slay over 30 would-be challengers, and then romp her opponent Joseph DioGuardi, 62-36. Senator Gillibrand took to the airwaves slamming the Republicans and clearly explaining how their actions today hurt both women and children:
Can you say: Gillibrand 2016!
As for the cowards, we need to hold them accountable. Even though it was the GOP that blew it this week, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
What we do know from the 2010 election is that women’s votes are in play. Time will tell which party will seize the opportunity!
Amy Siskind is the President and Co-Founder of The New Agenda, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls.