Senate GOP Uses Filibuster, Blocks Democrat-Backed Paycheck Fairness Act

June 9, 2021 Updated: June 10, 2021

Senate Republicans on Tuesday used the filibuster to block a Democrat-backed bill that would address the “wage gap” that allegedly exists between men and women.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, which faced significant opposition, failed by a vote of 49-50, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome the filibuster. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) missed the vote.

The bill, according to its text, would “provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex” and would “amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.”

The measure was passed in the House in April along mostly partisan lines, with all Democrats supporting it. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania was the only Republican to vote in favor of the measure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the bill and several other Democrat-backed measures were “transparently designed to fail.”

“Senate Democrats intend to focus this month on the demands of their radical base, exploiting the cause of pay fairness to send a windfall to trial lawyers, saddling hospitals, schools and small businesses with crippling new legal burdens if they fail to keep pace with woke social norms,” McConnell said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Congress members have “been talking about the wage gap for years now with no action taken by the Senate. Women with the same jobs, the same degree, sometimes even better degrees than their male colleagues, are making less money. For women of color, the gap between them and their male colleagues is even wider.”

And Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on the upper congressional chamber to pass the measure: “Women are the sole or co-breadwinner in more than half of all U.S. families. Simply by closing the gender pay gap, we can help cut the poverty rate in half for working women.”

However, critics of the “pay gap” assertions have long said it’s a myth.

“Anecdotal evidence and the choices women and men make suggest that women value job choices more than men and that their preference for greater flexibility accounts for some—if not all—of the remaining pay gap between men and women,” said the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, which added that the long-held notion that women make only 82 cents for every dollar a man makes is false and “outdated.”

“Choice is what legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act would squelch,” it added. “Equal pay for equal work is already the law of the land. Imposing further-reaching policies in an attempt to eliminate pay differences that have little or nothing to do with discrimination could actually backfire.”

According to a study released (pdf) by Harvard researchers in 2018, the difference in male and female earnings was derived from the choices that women made. They had evaluated the wages of male and female employees at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

“The gap of $0.89 in our setting,” the authors wrote, “can be explained entirely by the fact that, while having the same choice sets in the workplace, women and men make different choices.”