Over the course of this nation’s history, disparate groups have struggled to overcome inequality despite guarantees in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Since the country’s founding, women have never achieved equal status with men and for the past year, Republicans made it clear they believe religious men have the right to subject women to second-class status with assaults on their reproductive health and ability to choose when they give birth. Republicans fiercely deny they are waging war on women and claim they are protecting religious liberty in the fight to ban contraception coverage, and enforce intrusive medical procedures they claim might protect the life of a fetus. However, they had an opportunity yesterday to prove to women they are not waging war on their rights, and instead of putting the issue to rest, Senate Republicans demonstrated that regardless the issue, they still consider women second-class citizens.
In yesterday’s procedural vote, Democrats failed to garner the 60 vote minimum to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act to increase protections for women filing gender-discrimination lawsuits for equal pay. Republicans said Democrats and President Obama were using the bill as an election year campaign issue, but in light of their vote against the Lily Ledbetter Act President Obama signed over three years ago, they’re lying. The Republicans claimed they support gender equity in pay, but were concerned that small businesses would suffer even though there is an exemption in the Equal Pay Act for small businesses that earn less than $500,000 annually. The truth is Republicans do not support equality for women because their first allegiance is to big business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
When the Lily Ledbetter Act passed in 2009, all but three Republicans voted against equal pay for women, and it informs their anti-women bias that impacts the nation’s economy as more women are breadwinners struggling to make ends meet. President Obama accused Republicans of putting “partisan politics ahead of women and their families,” and promised his administration “will continue to fight for a woman’s right for equal pay for equal work, as we rebuild our economy so that hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, and every American gets a fair shot to succeed.” Republicans are not interested in rebuilding the economy or giving every American the same opportunity for success; especially if they are women. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said, “It is a very sad day here in the United States Senate, but it’s a sadder day every day when paycheck day comes and women continue to make less than men,” and that “we’re sorry that this vote occurred strictly on party lines.”
The measure has the public’s support with nine out of ten Americans, including 81% of men and 77% of Republicans supporting the legislation, but instead of following the will of the people, Republicans followed the will of the Chamber of Commerce and big business. The Chamber sent out a letter that “they strongly oppose” the measure and advised lawmakers to vote against it; Republicans followed directions from big business and the Chamber of Commerce.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the issue “not only affects women, but our families and our economy. You would see the economy stimulated because middle-class families would spend those dollars, they don’t hoard those dollars.” However, big business does hoard dollars and if they can continue paying women 77-cents on the dollar that men earn for equal work, they increase their profits and that, coupled with Republicans hatred of women, is the heart of the matter. The fact they can damage the economy in the process was an added incentive for Republicans to vote en masse to maintain gender inequity in pay. If it were not solidified in women’s minds that Republicans will do everything in their power to keep them underpaid and subject to their bible sensibilities, the Senate vote certainly indicts them, and it is not only congressional Republicans who oppose equality for women. Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Willard Romney was queried five times by a Washington newspaper if he supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, and he was silent. When his advisors were asked if he supported the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, there was also silence because Romney is entrenched in the corporate world, and saving 23-cents on the dollar a man earns is more profit for Willard’s investor friends to hide offshore.
The Senate vote was telling because Republicans are so strongly opposed to equal pay, their votes meant the measure couldn’t even be debated. However, if the Republicans think women are going to forget this last assault on their rights, they are mistaken. The National Organization for Women is already organizing around the country to make sure that when November rolls around, Republicans will pay for opposing a commonsense and common decency measure that should have passed easily. Americans may not always display intelligence when voting, but men and women alike believe in fair pay for equal work.
The vote yesterday really exposed the Republicans as champions for big business and the Chamber of Commerce as well as their intent to damage the economy at all costs; that they could escalate the war on women in the process was added value that may please chauvinists, but will further incite America’s women to action. The GOP cannot possibly explain their way out of this latest attack on women as protecting religious liberty, reducing the deficit, or reining in spending because it was purely to satisfy big business. However, in pandering to big business, they punish women, middle class families, and economic recovery, and if they think men are amused their wives, mothers, sisters, and girlfriends earn less than a man for the same job they are out of touch with American men. Men are sick to death of the GOP waging attack after attack on their women, and Republicans could not care less.
However, it is women who have taken the brunt of Republican assaults and as the National Organization for Women’s president said, “Women are paying attention, and will remember in November.” With women making up over half the population, one hopes when they mete out retribution in November, it is extremely painful and long-lasting to demonstrate that attacking women is attacking equality, and if there is one thing Americans understand and believe in, it is equality.