Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act which called for equal pay in the workplace on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
As predicted, the bill fell short of the 60 votes needed for it to advance. The bill was strongly backed by President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, who said it was needed to protect workers who try to find out how their pay compares to their coworkers. The Republicans said it put too much burden on employers, according to the AP.
The bill would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who asked about their colleagues' salaries, said Politico.
Obama said, "Congress has to step up and do its job," on a conference call to supporters of the bill, according to CNN.
He added, "If Congress passes the Paycheck Fairness Act, women are going to have access to more tools to claim equal pay for equal work. If they don't, if Congress doesn't act, then women are still going to have difficulty enforcing and pressing for this basic principle."
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Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the chief sponsor of the bill, said, "American women are mad as hell," according to CNN. She pointed out that women earn 77 cents to the dollar compared to men, a figure which has only increased by 18 cents since 1963, when President Johnson signed the Equal Pay Act.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said, "Of course Gov. Romney supports pay equity for women," according to the AP. "In order to have pay equity, women need to have jobs, and they have been getting crushed in this anemic Obama economy, losing far more jobs than men."
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Lilly Ledbetter, the face of the movement for equal pay for women, urged Romney to take a stand in a letter on Tuesday, said the AP.
Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups told Senate leaders that the bill would "impose unprecedented government control" over how employees were paid, calling it "flawed legislation," according to CNN.
The vote was a procedural vote on a motion to debate the bill.
Some political analysts viewed the legislation as electioneering, designed to bolster Obama's support among women and continue the Democratic narrative of the Republicans' "war on women," said Reuters.
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