By Matthew Hoh |
After battles over the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the mandate by President Obama’s healthcare law that religious institutions cover contraceptives for employees, another storm is brewing in Washington over women-oriented issues. The Senate is expected to call a vote in the coming weeks on the Paycheck Fairness Act, an update on 1963’s Equal Pay Act, which made wage discrimination based on one’s sex illegal. With a reported 77 cents to the dollar pay gap between women and men, respectively, persisting nearly five decades later, the Paycheck Fairness Act is designed to help those who believe they are victims of gender-based wage discrimination by making wages more transparent, by requiring that employers prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender, and by prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination. The bill, supported by the Obama administration, was passed by the House in January 2009 only to be stalled in the Senate in November 2010, and was reintroduced in both chambers in April 2011. Democratic National Committee Chair and Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently urged presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to take a stand on the bill, bringing it back into the political limelight and putting the pressure on Senate Dems to prioritize a vote on the legislation.
Proponents say that more must be done to close the pay gap between men and women, particularly with much greater participation by women in the workforce since the Equal Pay Act became law. Opponents say that the proposed new law misdiagnoses the problem, questioning the data cited by its supporters, and would unfairly harm small businesses as the economic recovery struggles to pick up steam. Should the Senate pass the Paycheck Fairness Act? Here is the Debate Club’s take.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
Penny Nance President and CEO of Concerned Women for America
Debbie Wasserman Schultz Chair of the Democratic National Committee