Nathan Brothers, Government Relations Volunteer
Last Wednesday, for the first time ever, the U.S. Senate decided to debate the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA). This proposed law, sponsored in the Senate by Barbara Mikulski (MD-D), would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. (Learn more about PFA by reading our previous post on the bill, “Making Equal Pay a Reality”.)
The National Partnership for Women and Families reports that, according to a 2010 poll, over 80 percent of registered voters support this legislation. This statistic holds true among respondents regardless of gender, race, or geographic location. Additionally, the bill rallied support from over 90 percent of Democrats, over 70 percent of Republicans, and over 80 percent of Independents. Despite this overwhelming support, the measure was blocked from receiving a final vote afterthirty hours of scheduled debate ended late afternoon of September 15th. (Sixty votes were required to end the debate and proceed to a final vote.) Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, along with fifty-one Democrats, elected to move to a final vote. However, thirty-nine Republicans were joined by Independent Senator Angus King of Maine in blocking final consideration. Six Republicans and two Democrats did not vote.
So what does this mean for the future of the Paycheck Fairness Act? With the public overwhelmingly in favor of change, it seems inevitable that the law will eventually pass. However, many women’s rights opponents in Congress will likely need to be replaced by supporters before this can happen – a reminder that the upcoming mid-term election is vital for women’s rights. Pressure from activists must continue to keep this bill alive, as well. Some members of Congress may be persuaded to change their votes by the widespread public support in favor of equal pay for equal work.