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Senate Fails to Advance Pay Parity

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
From left: Lilly Ledbetter, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speak to the media before Tuesday's vote.

Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic pay parity bill from coming to the floor today, arguing that the measure was not the right answer to gender discrimination in pay.

In a 52-47 party line vote, Democrats failed to secure the 60 votes necessary to advance the measure.

At a press conference before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that nearly 90 percent of all Americans support pay parity and 77 percent of Republicans support it.

“Once again Republicans across America can recognize what’s fair. Every place except Republicans in Congress,” Reid said.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who led the charge for the bill, decried the GOP filibuster. “The majority should rule in the United States Senate,” she said.

The GOP opposition to the bill, including from the female GOP Senators, appeared to be more about the potential lawsuits that might arise from the pay parity bill than about the idea of equality itself.

Besides requiring employers to pay men and women the same wages for similar jobs as long as they have similar credentials, the bill would allow women to sue for punitive damages, and employers could not bar employees from talking about their wages with each other.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters before the vote that she opposed the bill because existing laws already allow women to sue for pay inequality. Collins also questioned whether the pay gap was due to discrimination or other factors.

In 2009, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which ensured that women who have been discriminated against can sue for back-pay regardless of when they find out about the discrimination. It reversed a Supreme Court decision that made pay discrimination suits harder to file.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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