When Congress adopted the Lilly Ledbetter law in 2009 requiring pay parity for women in jobs where women do the same work as men, the goal of wage fairness finally seemed possible. But it hasn't happened yet. Women are still paid about 77 cents for every dollar men make for doing the same work. And on Tuesday, 46 Republicans in the U.S. Senate -- including Tennessee's Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander -- again voted in lock-step to block a proposed law that would have granted women the right to ask about pay parity on their jobs without the fear of retaliation or being fired.
The 2009 Ledbetter law, named for the Alabama tire plant worker who worked for decades doing the same job as her male peers without knowing that they were being paid considerably more, didn't include the legal trigger that would let women safely ask how their pay compared with that of men in similar jobs. The Paycheck Fairness Act that Republicans blocked Tuesday is designed to close that loophole.
It aims to give women a secure right to ask and know if their pay is on par with men by barring employers from threatening or taking retaliatory measures against women for seeking pay parity or wage-related information. To ensure those rights, it would have opened the way for women to sue employers for punitive damages for paycheck discrimination.
That's what should happen. Senate Republicans, however, just can't get over the business lobbying effort to thwart women's right to fair pay. And under the rules of the Senate requiring a filibuster-proof 60-vote margin to open debate on such bill, Republicans' 47 votes (one Republican abstained) against the bill negated the majority 52 votes by Democrats and two Independents to open the bill for a vote on adoption. The Republicans' vote Tuesday repeated what happened in 2010, when Democrats first sought to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Corker and Alexander, and their counterparts in Georgia and Alabama, should have to explain to voters when they come home why they object to ensuring women's rights to pay parity. Surely some Republican senators have daughters, nieces and cousins in the American workforce whose economic future is on the line. Why would they contest such core civil rights for women, who comprise more than half of their constituencies?
Republicans' anti-women position, of course, has become thematic for their party. Their appalling current crusade against women's rights generally in this election season has made that clear. At both the state and federal level, Republicans regularly seek to tighten strictures or eliminate measures intended to safeguard or improve women's reproductive rights and preventive care needs.
At both levels, GOP lawmakers constantly attempt to dismantle efforts by local clinics and Planned Parenthood to provide needed routine services that have nothing to do with abortion. For example, they would eliminate vital cervical and breast cancer screenings, pap smears and contraceptive aid for women who can't afford comprehensive personal insurance. Even Mitt Romney has jumped on this witless bandwagon, opposing so-called morning-after pills as "abortion pills" to appease anti-contraceptive extremists. We wonder how they will deal with the latest scientific findings showing that such pills help the body avoid fertilization of eggs, rather than destroying eggs after they're fertilized.
The irony of such thinking, in any case, is stunning. Republicans rant for all rights to eggs and fetuses, but oppose fair civil rights to those born as females who grow into jobs and deserve fair pay and fair health care services. Such warped thinking shouldn't be lost on women voters.