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Senate GOP thwarts bill on gender pay gap

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday, April 10, 2014, argued that the Paycheck Fairness Act sought by Democrats would “double down on job loss.”

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday blocked a Democrat-supported bill aimed at addressing a gap in pay between male and female workers.

On a 53-44 vote, supporters fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure. Republicans called the legislation a political ploy whose purpose was to attract female voters to the Democratic side in the November elections.

Forty-two Republicans and one independent, Angus King of Maine, voted against the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote from yes to no to reserve his right to bring up the measure again.

Democrats cast all 53 yes votes.

The action occurred a day after President Obama signed two executive orders to help close what has been a long-standing gender pay gap by requiring federal contractors to disclose more wage data and allow employees to share salary information.

The Senate Democrats' Paycheck Fairness Act would have imposed the same requirement on private employers.

But Republicans dismissed the bill, saying pay discrimination is illegal and that the measure would prompt frivolous lawsuits and discourage companies from hiring women.

“This legislation would double down on job loss — all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Reid rejected the Republicans' criticism, saying: “Simply put, the Paycheck Fairness Act gives American women the fair shot they deserve.”

The bill is the first piece of the Senate Democrats' new legislative agenda, called “A Fair Shot For Everyone,” which is set to be voted on in the coming weeks and months in advance of the November elections.

Other pending measures include legislation to increase the minimum wage, make college more affordable, boost jobs through manufacturing and help small business development.

None of the bills may become law, but Democrats see the votes on them as a chance to rally their liberal base as they seek to retain control of the Senate and minimize anticipated Republican pickups in the House of Representatives on Election Day.

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