In their latest play for female voters, Senate Democrats have begun laying the groundwork for a legislative fight over equal pay next month.
Senate Democrats intend to set up a procedural vote after next week’s recess on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update the Equal Pay Act signed into law June 10, 1963.
“Forty-nine years later, women still make less for doing the same job with the same education as men do,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who introduced the bill, said Wednesday at a briefing. “What we are saying here on the eve of the 49th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act is we’re mad as hell and we’re not going take it anymore.”
Republicans were unmoved and criticized their Democratic counterparts for pushing what they said was more pressing legislation to the side. A senior GOP leadership aide said “it makes it tough to swallow” that Senate Democratic leaders have complained about lack of floor time to deal with what the aide said was “the largest tax hike in history, sequestration, spending bills” and an assortment of other must-do legislation.
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who is head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called on Republicans to back the bill to show that they support women’s issues, despite what she called a raft of recent GOP legislative proposals that would disadvantage women.
“I ... urge Republicans to join with us to pass this critical legislation,” Murray said at the briefing. “Over the past few months, many of us have stood up here in front of you to fight against partisan attacks on policies that would impact women across America. None of us started these fights, but we are not going to stand by and watch as Republicans roll back the clock.”
Among the examples Democrats have cited is contraception. In March, Senate Republicans offered an amendment to transportation reauthorization legislation that would have allowed companies and insurance providers to opt out of a proposed rule that mandates access to birth control.
The amendment, which was defeated, came in response to a rule proposed by the Obama administration that would require insurance companies to provide and pay for contraception services in accordance with the 2010 health care law.
Democrats said the amendment showed that Republicans were willing to trample on women’s right to contraception, which they said was standard health care.
Republicans said the rule threatens religious freedom.
Since then, however, Republican leaders have focused on jobs messaging and have largely deferred on getting involved in any more sparring in the culture wars.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.