Senate Republicans voted unanimously Wednesday against a bill that would work to ensure fair pay for women, the Paycheck Fairness Act. The vote was 58-41.
Despite the Senate having majority support, Democrats couldn't muster the 60 votes they needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Several Republicans who voted for another women's rights bill last year, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, opposed this iteration.
Those senators included Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both Republicans from Maine. The bill would have expanded enforcement of equal pay laws.
Collins argued that the bill would place undue burden on small business, and "impose increased costs and restrictions on small businesses in an already difficult economic climate."
Her statement echoes rhetoric from the US Chamber of Commerce, which has routinely used small business as a defense for opposing all manner of progressive legislation. In fact, Collins even cited the Chamber's opposition to the bill in her statement.
"Many business groups oppose this legislation, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, our nation's largest small business advocacy group, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce," Collins said.
Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine also declined to back the expansion of enforcing equal pay for women, even though she'd been supportive of a similar bill in the past. Noted the liberal blog ThinkProgress:
Not a single Republican supported the bill, including Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who had previously voted in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which removed barriers blocking workers from seeking compensation from discriminatory pay practices. At the time, Snowe said, “This new law sends a clear message to the American people that this Congress is committed to these core principles and will continue to work in bipartisan fashion to break down the barriers of wage discrimination in our nation.”
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who also voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act, was the lone Democrat voting against the bill today. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was not present for the vote.
The bill would have worked to ensure equal pay for women, giving them more remedies in the court system for wage discrimination.
The summary of the bill states that it "amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages."
In a statement, President Barack Obama said he was "disappointed."
"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," he said. "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."
Correction: Sens. Snowe and Collins are from Maine, not Vermont.