The Senate will take a key procedural vote on a gender pay equity bill when it returns from recess next month, and the Virginians battling to join the chamber in 2013 are squabbling over the measure.
Timothy M. Kaine (D) has made clear he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is designed to update the 1963 Equal Pay Act. Fellow former governor George Allen, the likely Republican nominee in the race to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), won’t say how he
would vote if he were in the Senate now, though his campaign says he is clearly the better choice for women.
”It’s unfortunate that Washington is playing politics — there is no question George Allen supports pay equality for women,” said Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis. “He will stand as the strongest advocate for women struggling to keep their businesses and households afloat under the failed economic policies Tim Kaine championed in Washington.”
At a forum for Northern Virginia women at an Arlington restaurant Friday, Kaine made clear that he believed Allen’s silence meant he opposed the measure.
“If you decline to state your position, I’ve got a pretty good idea what your position is, and that’s the wrong position for women and the wrong position for Virginia,” Kaine said.
Other Virginia Democrats got in on the act Thursday, when the state party organized a conference call featuring state Sen. Louise Lucas (Portsmouth) and former state treasurer Jody Wagner to attack Allen on the subject.
Democrats — led by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.) — say the paycheck measure is necessary because it closes loopholes in the original Equal Pay Act, including by making it harder for employers to justify pay disparities and by preventing retaliation against employees who share salary information with each other.
Some Republicans have countered by saying the bill is duplicative, noting that Democrats previously touted the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as an effective remedy against wage discrimination. And the y say the measure would clog the courts with unnecessary litigation.
“The PFA would mean millions of dollars for trial lawyers but fewer jobs for most Americans,” the conservative Heritage Foundation argued last year.
Democrats nationwide have sought to promote the idea that a host of Republican policies would be disastrous for women, and Kaine is making the same case in Virginia. A Washington Post poll released in early May showed Kaine with a 7-point lead over Allen among Virginia women voters, while the same survey gave President Obama an 18-point edge among women over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R).