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Senate Republicans block pay equity bill
By Ted Barrett, CNN
An election-year Democratic measure designed to ensure that women don't face pay discrimination was blocked Tuesday by Republicans who complained that the bill was politically inspired and would reward trial lawyers at the expense of employers.
The motion, which needed 60 votes to succeed, got only 52, not one from a Republican.
President Obama issued a statement criticizing Republicans for putting "partisan politics ahead of American women and families."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, standing at a news conference with pay equity advocate Lilly Ledbetter, accused Republicans of "wanting to stick their heads in the sand" about the longstanding issue of women being paid less than men. "But it's clear where Democrats stand," Reid said.
The bill, which Democrats said would close loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act, would require employers to prove that differences in pay were related to job performance, not gender; would prevent employers from forbidding employees from sharing salary information with each other; and would allow women who believe they were discriminated against to sue for damages.
Democrats acknowledged privately that they expected to make political gains with women by pressing to close the pay gap, which they said has women earning just 77 cents on the dollar compared with men.
Republicans, fearful that Democrats were trying to portray them as insensitive to women, argued that they oppose pay discrimination but disagree with the Democrats' bill, which was written without their input. Republicans remained largely silent about the issue in the days leading up to the vote, even as Democrats, led by the president, made an all-out push for the legislation.
Only one Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, who is in a tight re-election race against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, spoke on the floor against the bill. In his brief speech, Heller proposed an alternative...
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