| WASHINGTON, June 5
WASHINGTON, June 5 U.S. Senate Republicans on
Tuesday blocked an election-year bid by Democrats for
legislation they said would discourage employers from paying
women less than they pay men for the same job.
In a party-line vote, Democrats, who control the Senate,
failed to muster the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation
backed by President Barack Obama.
The issue is part of an election-year effort by Obama and
congressional Democrats to woo women voters ahead of Nov. 6
Public opinion polls show Obama has more backing among women
than Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. With some
recent surveys showing Romney improving his support among women,
Democrats have aggressively sought to maintain their advantage
by advertising what they call a Republican "war on women."
The party-line vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act will help
Democrats deliver that message in campaign speeches and
Critics said the law would spur a rash of lawsuits against
employers at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling to
create jobs. But backers point to data showing that women on
average are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by men doing
the same job.
"When women get a mortgage, we don't get a 23 percent
discount," said Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, the bill's
chief sponsor. "When we go to buy food, we don't get a 23
percent discount. When we go to pay our utility bills, they
don't say you're paid less; we're going to give you a discount.
No. We get charged the same and often more for what we do, but
we're paid less."
The bill aims to close the pay gap between men and women by
requiring employers to show that any pay disparities are based
on work-related factors such as education, training and
experience. It also would update current fair pay laws by
barring employers from punishing workers who share information
about their pay.
Democrats say the law builds on a 2009 law signed by Obama
that made it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination.
That measure is known as the "Lilly Ledbetter Law" after
a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. worker who had lost her claim of
pay discrimination before the U.S. Supreme Court because she
waited too long to sue. Le dbetter was in the Senate on Tuesday
as this latest pay equity measure faltered.
Republican critics said the legislation, which would allow
women to pursue punitive damages in wage discrimination cases,
would encourage too many frivolous court cases.
"Unfortunately, the only winners under this legislation would
be trial lawyers, giving them a windfall," said Republican
Senator Dean Heller. "This legislation opens the door to
frivolous lawsuits which already cost our economy billions of
dollars every year."