This vote was on a procedural motion that would have cleared the way for a separate vote on whether the Senate should consider legislation aimed at reducing the pay gap between men and women.
Senate Democratic leaders sought to bring up for consideration the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require differences in pay between men and women to be based on factors such as the level of education. The gender of the employee would not be a legitimate factor under the bill. The bill would also outlaw employers’ efforts to keep workers from discussing their salaries, and establish a grant program aimed at improving women’s and girls’ salary negotiating skills.
To clear the way for a vote on whether to consider the equal-pay bill, the Senate voted on a motion for “cloture,” which sets a timeline to end a debate that would otherwise be unlimited in duration. Failure to pass the cloture motion essentially dooms the effort to bring the bill up for consideration.
Supporters of the motion argued that the Senate should take up the bill as a way of eliminating a long-standing difference in pay between men and women.
“Pay discrimination does not just hurt the employee. It endangers the families who depend on these women. One in three working moms is her family's only source of income. With the money that mother loses to pay discrimination every year, she could be paying housing and utility costs on her home or she could be feeding her family, with money to spare,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said. “It is long past time for us to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. I urge all of our colleagues to support this legislation.”
Opponents of the motion argued that the Paycheck Fairness Act would lead to “frivolous lawsuits” from employees who claimed that their lower pay was based on gender.
“These lawsuits, if successful, could transfer billions of dollars from employers to trial lawyers,” Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) said. “In an economy already marked by uncertainty, this legislation would surely mean lost jobs, limitations on benefits, and pay cuts. These changes would mean much harder times ahead for Nevada's unemployed and underemployed, so many of whom are women. Instead of a trial lawyer bailout, let's address the issue of equal pay. Instead of holding votes designed for press releases, let's actually work to solve our nation's problems.”
Even though the motion to end debate and vote on the equal-pay bill received 52 “yea” votes and only 47 voted “nay,” the motion failed because it was brought up under Senate rules that require 60 votes for passage. Voting “yea” were 52 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 46 Republicans. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also voted “nay” because this allows him to call a re-vote at a later date. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to consider legislation aimed at reducing the pay gap between men and women.