UPDATE 1-U.S. Senate Republicans block Obama-backed pay equity bill

Wed Apr 9, 2014 12:12pm EDT

(Vote breakdown, vote follows Obama's executive orders)

WASHINGTON, April 9(Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a bill that Democrats said would give women a "fair shot" at obtaining equal pay to men for comparable work.

On a 53-44 vote, supporters fell short of the needed 60 votes to advance the bill. Republicans called the measure a political ploy whose purpose was not to promote pay equity but to attract women voters to the Democratic side in the November elections.

Forty-two Republicans and one independent, Angus King of Maine, voted against the bill. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid switched his vote from yes to no to reserve his right to bring up the bill again. Democrats cast all 53 yes votes.

The action came a day after President Barack Obama signed two executive orders to help close what has been a long-time gender pay gap by requiring federal contractors to disclose more wage data and allow employees to share salary information.

The Senate Democrats' Paycheck Fairness Act would have impose the same requirement on private employers.

But Republicans dismissed the bill, saying pay discrimination is already illegal and that better enforcement, not new laws, is what is needed.

They also said the bill would prompt frivolous lawsuits and discourage companies from hiring women, thus hurting those who it seeks to help. (Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Bill Trott)

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