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On Equal Pay Bill, Republicans Face Certain Criticism

Mikulski, before a news conference on the Senate steps before the last votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act in April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans should prepare to be criticized regardless of how they vote Wednesday afternoon when the Senate reconsiders legislation known as the Paycheck Fairness Act.  

It's an underlying bill that Republicans don't support, and voting for cloture on proceeding to it would be a reverse in strategy from the last time it came up. For Democrats, who view the GOP as meddling with their schedule of pre-election votes, either vote by the GOP counterparts will be pushed as a negative, making this a classic case of election-year theater all around.  

An email circulated to Democratic communications aides and obtained by CQ Roll Call late Tuesday points to a strategy of either criticizing Republicans for voting yes to limit debate on proceeding to a gender pay equity bill that they don't support and burning valuable floor time, or for voting no and blocking a debate.  

"As you may have heard, the Senate is now scheduled to reconsider the Paycheck Fairness Act tomorrow. In the afternoon, Senator Mikulski will be leading a press conference to slam republicans for either blocking the bill once again or for letting us on the bill only to slow down the rest of the senate," the email said.  

The news conference, featuring Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and other Democrats, is scheduled for 2:15 p.m.  

When the Senate last considered the Paycheck Fairness Act, Republicans stopped it at this parliamentary stage. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted against it for procedural reasons to allow him to quickly tee up the Wednesday afternoon vote.  

"Are Republicans in the Senate so repulsed by equal pay for hard-working American women that they can't even stomach the thought of debating the issue?" Reid asked at the original debate in April. "Instead, Republican senators have come to the floor and tried to offer amendments that have nothing to do with equal pay. As I said yesterday, if senators wish to offer amendments to the Paycheck Fairness Act, they first need to vote to begin debate on the bill."  

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the bill in April, citing the potential for lawsuits.  

"When the Obamacare economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers," the Kentucky Republican said.  

Blocking the pay equity measure at this point this time would make it easier for Reid to move on to other business, such as votes on minimum wage or student loan interest rates. Republicans could, of course, agree to a unanimous consent agreement to yield back the 30 hours of debate time provided under Senate rules.  

Given that Reid's got a number of bills on the "fair shot" agenda available for reconsideration, there's little incentive to do so. Republicans would have another chance to ultimately block the measure when Reid calls for a cloture vote on the underlying bill.  

The Senate is currently working through all the procedural machinations on a Democratic proposal to amend the constitution to effectively upend the Supreme Court's views on campaign finance regulation, after Republicans who vehemently oppose it voted Monday evening to advance it. That also effectively clogs the schedule, given that the amendment is doomed to fail in the end.  

   

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