Senate Republicans voted unanimously on Wednesday to block debate from beginning on Democratic-led legislation aimed at narrowing the pay gap between men and women.
The motion to proceed to the Paycheck Fairness Act received 53 votes for, and 44 against, falling short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster.
“This legislation would double down on job loss all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “In other words, it’s just another Democratic idea that threatens to hurt the very people that it claims to help. … We’ve already seen what five and a half years of Washington Democratic control has meant. More poverty and lower wages for women.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), is backed by President Barack Obama. It would make it easier for a woman to sue an employer if she’s getting paid less than a male counterpart for doing the same work. It would also prohibit employer retaliation against workers for talking about how much they earn.
“For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t appear to be interested in closing the wage gap for working women,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
Reid switched his vote to ‘no’ at the last minute, a procedural maneuver to preserve his right to bring up the bill again.
The outcome was similar to the last time the bill came up, in 2012, also just months before an election. Republicans unanimously blocked it then, too. For Democrats, it’s a political weapon to use against the GOP ahead of a tough election in November. Republican operatives recognize its potency, and have been highlighting the White House’s own gender pay gap.