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Senate Republicans block pay equality bill

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Liz Draper
WVoN co-editor

Republicans in the US Senate have blocked a bill which would have made it easier for women to pursue equal pay through the legal system.

The Paycheck Fairness Act intended to reduce the gender pay gap by introducing higher penalties for employers who discriminate, making it easier for women to find out if they are paid less than male colleagues, and preventing retaliation against those who sue for pay equity.

However, on Tuesday the Senate voted 52 to 47 against the bill, with Republicans arguing that an increase in litigation would harm small businesses and hinder free enterprise.

In contrast, President Obama, who spoke out in support of the bill earlier this week, framed the issue of gender pay equality as essential to the US economy.

Based on annual earnings, US women make 77 cents for every dollar compared to men; in terms of median hourly pay, they earn 86 cents.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Obama said: “I don’t have to tell you how much this matters to families across the country”.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on the other hand, refused to take a position on the bill.

At a time when abortion and contraception rights are under constant debate, Democrats are expected to use the vote as evidence of a Republican war on women in the forthcoming US presidential elections.

In a statement released after the vote, Obama (who is offering women free Women for Obama bumper stickers) criticised Senate Republicans for putting “partisan politics ahead of American women and their families”.

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