WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A minority of U.S. senators Wednesday blocked passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, aimed at strengthening the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
The PFA would "update and strengthen" the 1963 law, which barred employers from paying "unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially the same work," the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement. Sixty votes would be needed to move the bill forward, but only 58 senators voted in favor.
"The decision by a minority of senators to block consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act is extremely troubling, especially in these trying economic times," said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the conference. "PFA, which passed the House overwhelmingly more than a year ago, would have given women and the families who rely on them effective tools to fight pay discrimination and ensure that they receive equal wages to men who perform substantially the same work."
"I am deeply disappointed that a minority of senators have prevented the Paycheck Fairness Act from finally being brought up for a debate and receiving a vote," President Obama said in a statement. "This bill passed in the House almost two years ago; today, it had 58 votes to move forward, the support of the majority of Senate, and the support of the majority of Americans. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in history, this bill would ensure that American women and their families aren't bringing home smaller paychecks because of discrimination. … But a partisan minority of senators blocked this commonsense law."
Attorney Lawrence Lorber told The Wall Street Journal the act could lead to more rigid pay schemes.
"Some women may get pay increases, but what is going to happen is inevitably you will move toward a very rigid civil-service-like pay system, and there won't be any opportunity for significant merit-based raises," Lorber said. "What you will have to do is assure that when you give increases you don't wind up with some sort of a pay differential, and you do that by not giving pay increases or by creating superficial promotions."