Grassley, Senate Republicans block Paycheck Fairness Act

A majority of Iowa women voters backed Senator Chuck Grassley on November 2. Here's how he repaid them two weeks later:

Senate Democrats didn't muster enough votes today to overcome a Republican-led filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would have lifted the cap on damages in pay- discrimination lawsuits and restricted how employers can fight such complaints. The legislation would also have banned employers from penalizing workers who share salary information to find pay discrepancies.

Democrats pushed the measure, which would have strengthened remedies under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 for women, early in the Obama administration as part of a pro-labor agenda. It passed the House of Representatives in January 2009, along with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. [...]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups lobbied Republican senators to block the companion piece of legislation.

Yes, Grassley and every other Republican present (plus "Democrat" Ben Nelson of Nebraska) voted to block debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. If you're a working woman getting paid less than your male colleagues, Grassley wants to limit your ability to find evidence of discrimination as well as your compensation if you file a claim against your employer.

Grassley's lack of concern for underpaid women is no surprise. He also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act several times.

Add the Paycheck Fairness Act filibuster to the list of reasons Democrats should take up Tom Harkin's call for Senate reform. Yet again, 41 senators overruled 58 colleagues who supported moving a bill forward. Senators will be able to change the chamber's procedural rules in January, when the newly elected Congress begins work. Democrats would be idiots not to do so.

Speaking of corporate influence over American politics, Bloomberg News reported yesterday that America's Health Insurance Plans, a lobbying group representing health insurers, gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million in 2009.

The spending on the Chamber exceeded the insurer group's entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber's $214.6 million in 2009 expenditures. [...]

The $86.2 million paid for advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the [health care reform] bill, said Tom Collamore, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman. The Chamber said in a statement it used the funds to "advance a market-based health-care system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs."

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