Harry Reid moves up paycheck fairness vote
By: Burgess Everett
April 1, 2014 04:54 PM EDT
Senate Democrats are briefly pausing their push to raise the minimum wage in order to line up a coordinated messaging vote next week on a bill aimed at slashing pay disparities between men and women.
The Senate plans to hold a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act before it considers the minimum wage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. The vote is expected to line up with Equal Pay Day, which is next Tuesday. Democratic aides expect President Barack Obama to give a speech on Tuesday as well, precipitating the Senate’s schedule change.
“We’re going to have a vote on paycheck fairness. And it’s undetermined at this stage whether we can have a vote on minimum wage next week. It’s according to how much Republicans stall us,” Reid said.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would require the Department of Labor to work with employers to eliminate pay disparities between men and women, as well as create grant programs that provide negotiating skills training to women.
“The legislation I’ve introduced ensures that women will no longer be on their own fighting for equal pay for equal work. With paycheck fairness, we can put change in the law books, and change into checkbooks of working families across America,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) on Tuesday.
A similar bill failed in 2012 over worries that it would harm businesses — and most in the Capitol expect the 2014 version to meet a similar demise, though it could still pay dividends for Democrats at the ballot box as the party seeks to paint Republicans as obstructing poll-tested legislation. The bill is part of Democrats’ election-year strategy meant to amp up the party’s base by forcing votes on equal pay, college affordability and raising the minimum wage.
The Paycheck Fairness vote will come five years after Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which eased workers’ defense against discriminatory compensation practices. But Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) wondered why the Senate would be pursuing another fair pay bill — in an election year — if the Fair Pay Act is as groundbreaking as Democrats claim.
“So if that’s already the law, you might ask why in the world would the majority leader want to bring another [bill] to the floor for debate. What’s changed? Why hasn’t the earlier law worked?” Cornyn said. “It’s all part of the reelection campaign for people who are desperate to change the subject from this failed policy known as Obamacare.”