The Washington Post

Republicans shift tactics on equal pay issue


Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, talks about the gender pay gap as the Senate begins debate on wage equity, Tuesday, April 8, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

For proof of a significant shift in GOP strategy when it comes to women, consider this: When the Paycheck Fairness Act came up in June, 2012, the Republican approach was, “vote no, and move on,” according to a Republican aide.  This time their approach was markedly different.  More like, “vote no, but offer an alternative.”

During a marathon day of testimony on the Senate floor, a number of lawmakers offered their own amendments on the issue.  And there was some agreement between Republicans and Democrats on this point: There is gender based discrimination in the workplace.  The split now comes down to what exactly should be done about it.

Led by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md), Democrats have offered the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow employees to share information about their pay and bring civil actions against an employer.

On the Republican side, a coalition of four senators led by Sen. Deb Fischer (Neb.) offered an amendment to the bill that would do the following:

• Prevents Retaliation Against Employees: Prohibits retaliation against employees who inquire about, discuss or disclose their salaries. Exempts those employees, such as human resources officers, whose responsibilities include keeping salary information confidential.

• Bans Discrimination and Requires Notification of Rights: Reinforces current law prohibiting pay discrimination based on gender and establishing the principle of equal pay for equal work; requires employers to post a notice to employees as to their rights under both the EPA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

• Addresses Opportunity Gap: Consolidates duplicative job training programs and provides federal grants to states for the creation of industry-led partnerships. This program is meant to provide women and men underrepresented in industries that report worker shortages with the skills they need to grow and compete. Such industries include manufacturing, energy, transportation and logistics, information technology, and health care. No new spending is appropriated.

Republican Senate aides likened the amendment, which is unlikely to succeed, to President Obama’s executive orders directed at federal contractors.

The Democrats’ bill will come to the floor for a vote Wednesday, and is likely to fail, which would be a repeat of what happened with this bill twice before.  But Senate Republican aides said that after the recess, it is likely that there will be more discussion of this issue as the midterm elections heat up.

And it is very likely that the group of four Republican women–Fisher, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) — will be out front, joined by female colleagues in the House.

“Simply put: There is a pay gap between men and women,” said Murkowski. “We need to do more to understand why, and address barriers to equal pay. This amendment is a step in that direction.”

Here is Fischer’s floor speech, which is a blueprint for how Republican men and women will likely try to frame this issue:


Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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