Repeating Our Mistakes: Paycheck Fairness Act Fails in Senate for Fourth Time

For largely political reasons, Democrats in the U.S. Senate introduced S. 2199, the Paycheck Fairness Act, for a vote, and for largely political reasons Senate Republicans decided not to filibuster before voting unanimously against it. Little has changed.

The opposition’s arguments on this issue are feeble, as explained in our May 23, 2014 blog. This time the arguments were the same, except that John McCain and others complained that the introduction of the bill at this stage of an election cycle was political opportunism rather than a real attempt to make policy.

It is surely true that Democrats are using the failure of this bill in their campaigns to increase their already-substantial advantage among women voters. This fact is clearly understood on both sides: for example, Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer said “It’s a one-sided vote for political reasons, so (Democrats) can use it in campaigns.”

It is also true, as opponents of the bill point out, that many attorneys support the legislation. In some cases there are self-interested reasons in play, but there have also been principled defenses of the principles behind the law. For example, Thomas M. Susman, Director of the Governmental Affairs office of the American Bar Association, penned a template letter for people to send to their senators, in which he concisely rebuts several common arguments against the bill.

The kernel of the argument for the law–which has not been refuted because it is simply true–is that women are often paid less than their male counterparts because they are told that their employer can and will fire them if they so much as ask a question about pay equity in their workplace. Women, and in general those who favor pay equity, are threatened into silence. This situation is wrong, the Paycheck Fairness Act would change it.

It is not a political stunt, at least not more of a political stunt than opposing it just because one doesn’t want to see the President accomplish something. It does not pose an economic threat, at least not more of an economic threat than continuing to failing to incentivize women’s work in the market.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is the real solution to a real problem. Hopefully it is only a matter of time before we come to our collective senses, overcome the forces of reaction and delay, and pass this important–and aptly named–piece of legislation.