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WASHINGTON DIGEST: Senate fails to advance bill that aims to close gender wage gap

WASHINGTON – The Senate last week rejected a bill that sought to close a wage gap between men and women.

Proponents of the pay equity bill failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the legislation.

The 52-47 vote split along party lines with no Republican in support and no Democrat opposed.

Democrats said the legislation would build upon earlier efforts to close the gender disparity in pay. They noted that women average 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man doing the same work.

"It is not right, and it must be corrected. We can correct it by passing this law that gives people who believe they are being discriminated against better access to the court," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Republicans opposed the bill, saying it was designed to enrich trial lawyers. Major business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, were also strongly opposed.

"We’ve got a lot of problems. Not enough lawsuits is not a problem," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Among other things, the bill would have expanded remedies under the 1963 Equal Pay Act to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages.

It would have also shielded workers from retaliation from their bosses for talking about their wages with others.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against the bill. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., supported the pay equity bill but voted against it in a procedural move that allows him as majority leader to call it up again at a future date.


Over the objections of the Obama administration, the House voted to repeal a tax on medical device manufacturers that was part of the 2010 health care overhaul law.

The vote was 270-146.

Republican proponents of the bill said the 2.3 percent tax would hurt domestic manufacturers.

They said there are alternative ways – supported by Democrats and Republicans – to raise the $29 billion the tax is projected to generate.

Democrats opposing the bill saw it as a partisan attack on President Obama’s signature health care law. The debate comes in advance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the law.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said afterward that this was the 30th vote the House had cast aimed at "repealing, defunding, or dismantling a portion of ObamaCare."

Reps. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted for repeal. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against repeal.


Among dozens of appropriations bill amendments that were taken up by the House last week, lawmakers rejected one that sought to strip Transportation Security Administration screeners of their badges and law enforcement-like uniforms.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., proposed that Congress should block TSA from spending any funds on badges, shields or uniforms with epaulets, saying that it is a waste of money and that screeners often abuse the impression that the uniforms convey that they are law enforcement officers.

"Almost every day of the week you can turn on the news and you see story after story where a TSA in uniform" has arrested or acted inappropriately with a passenger, she said.

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., argued against the measure, saying it devalues the contribution made by workers who protect airline travel.

"How gratuitous is it to disparage this workforce?" Price asked.

The Blackburn measure was turned aside, 282-131.

No Democrats voted for it while Republicans were split.

Amodei and Heck voted for the amendment. Berkley opposed it.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at purban@stephensmedia.com or at 202-783-1760.

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