The Washington Post

Senate Republicans reject equal pay bill


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference to mark Equal Pay Day, on Capitol Hill, April 8 in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, during a news conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wondered out loud whether Republican senators who had tweeted support for the idea of equal pay for equal work could be counted on to vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014.

On Wednesday, Pelosi got her answer.

Despite weeks of heavy messaging, Democrats failed to get a single GOP vote as the third attempt in recent years to pass the wage equality legislation fell six votes short.

“The promise of equal pay for equal work should not be a partisan issue — it should be a matter of common sense and fairness, an essential step for the security of our families, the growth of our economy, and the strength of our middle class,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement after the vote.

“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans disagree,” she added.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), had 52 sponsors, but Democrats were unable to persuade Republicans to vote for the legislation, which needed to clear a 60-vote threshold to open debate on the bill.

Had it passed, the bill would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who inquire about or disclose their wages or the wages of other employees in a complaint or investigation. It also would make employers subject to civil actions by employees who feel aggrieved. As part of the bill, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would be required to collect pay information from employers.

The aim, Democrats have said, is to close a wage gap that finds women making 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The push has been a major plank of the “give America a raise” and “fair shot for everyone” talking points that Democrats hope will mobilize their voter base in this year’s midterm elections and help them retain control of the Senate.

Republicans have said that, although they support equal pay for equal work, the bill would increase civil lawsuits. They also say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.

Several Republicans — including Sens. Deb Fischer (Neb.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who had offered amendments to the bill that were not considered — had voiced support on social media for equal pay for equal work.

But with Senate Democratic leadership refusing to consider the amendments, the Republican senators voted against the bill.

“At a time when the Obama economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss — all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said on the Senate floor before the vote.

“In other words, it’s just another Democrat idea that threatens to hurt the very people it claims to help,” he said.

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.

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