Politics

Arguing threat to business, GOP defeats Paycheck Fairness Act in Senate

Font Size:

The Paycheck Fairness Act failed to garner the votes it needed to advance in the Senate, Tuesday.

The legislation, championed by President Obama and brought to the floor as a political ploy to paint Republicans (who had previously blocked the legislation in 2010) as anti-woman, needed 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. It failed in a vote of 52-47.

The legislation would have expanded protections for women to compare their salaries to men in the same position, created a grant program for women to improve their negotiation skills and allowed the government to collect salary information for use in enforcing possible pay discrimination.

Senate Republicans and the business community strongly opposed the legislation arguing that such a law would increase the cost of business, opening companies up to frivolous lawsuits.

Monday the president claimed that the Paycheck Fairness Act was essential to economic prosperity.

“[W]e’ve got to understand this is more than just about fairness,” Obama said on a conference call. “Women are the breadwinners for a lot of families, and if they’re making less than men do for the same work, families are going to have to get by for less money for childcare and tuition and rent, small businesses have fewer customers — everybody suffers.”

The Chamber of Commerce noted however that the legislation would be harmful to business.

“[T]his bill would, among other things, expand remedies under EPA [Equal Pay Act] to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages, significantly erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities, and impose invalid tools for enforcement by the Labor Department,” the business group wrote in an opposition letter.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did not take a position on the bill. When probed by the New York Times, spokesperson Amanda Henneberg responded, “Of course Governor Romney supports pay equity for women. In order to have pay equity, women need to have jobs, and they have been getting crushed in this anemic Obama economy, losing far more jobs than men.”

After the legislation failed, feminist and liberal advocacy groups again commenced with calling Republicans anti-woman.

“The National Organization for Women is deeply disappointed that conservatives in the U.S. Senate this afternoon prevented the Paycheck Fairness Act from being brought up for a debate and receiving a vote,” said National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill in a statement after the vote. “Today, this bill had 52 votes to move forward, and the support of the majority of the Senate. By blocking this common sense law, right-wing legislators have expanded the War on Women. But women are paying attention, and will remember in November.”

Also Tuesday, Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller introduced an alternative to the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Hill reported. The End Pay Discrimination Act would also provide women an outlet to compare salaries without retaliation, but would, according to Heller not be a “blank check” to trial lawyers.

“Unfortunately, the only winners with [the Paycheck Fairness Act] would be trial lawyers, giving them a windfall exposing employers to unemployed punitive damages,” Heller told The Hill. “This legislation opens the door to frivolous lawsuits which already costs our economy billions of dollars per year.”

Follow Caroline on Twitter