Mitt Romney Can't Dodge Paycheck Fairness and Win Over Women

Mitt Romney's Paycheck Fairness Act Dilemma

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Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is determined to make 2012 about the economy, but women's issues keep getting in his way.

In upcoming weeks, Senate Democrats are expected to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to the floor for a vote. The bill would expand safeguards to ensure women earn equal pay to that of their male counterparts, and experts agree Romney can't stay silent on this one. [See a Collection of Political Cartoons on the Republican Party.]

"Mitt Romney will need to address this because it is an issue of great importance to 51 percent of the population in the United States and their families," says Victoria A. Budson, founding executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. "Paycheck Fairness is not just about equality for women, but about equality for families in the Untied States."

Budson says ignoring the Paycheck Fairness Act would be a poor election strategy for Romney considering women account for the largest voting bloc in the country.

And while GOP campaign operative Matt Mackowiak argues the so-called war on women has been manufactured by Democrats trying to distract voters from President Barack Obama's failed economic policies, he agrees Romney must say something. [See Political Cartoons about GOP Hopefuls.]

"They need to address it and move on," Mackowiak says. "Get back to the economy."

This election cycle, Romney's campaign has felt pressure to take a stance on everything from birth control to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which allows women to challenge pay discrimination in court as long as they are being paid unfairly. [See the GOP's Senate Targets for 2012.]

The campaign took a hit on Lilly Ledbetter in April when, during a conference call with reporters, Romney's aide couldn't answer whether the candidate supported the act.

"Sam, we'll have to get back to you on that," the aide told Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein.

Romney cleared the air later by telling ABC's Diane Sawyer he supported equal pay for women, but Mackowiak says the incident showed just how careful Romney has to be when addressing women's issues.

Complicating the issue further, Romney might be forced to chose between siding with his GOP counterparts in Congress or facing criticism from the left over the Paycheck Fairness Act. In 2010, Senate Republican opposition was enough to block the act from becoming law.

"In a Democrat-controlled Senate, they are going to bring up as many bills and amendments that they can use as a wedge issues as possible," Mackowiak says.