While ISIL dominates the news, Congress continues to vote against the people of the United States. In last night’s vote, the four female GOP senators joined the rest of their caucus in a unanimous vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act. It was the third time since 2012 that the GOP has voted down the bill. The legislation required 60 votes to move on to debate but received only 52, a unanimous vote from Democrats.
New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte (left) thinks that it would prohibit merit-based pay. She also voted against it because Democrats opposed her amendment to the legislation.
Maine’s Susan Collins (second from left) thinks that the Civil Rights Act the 1963 Equal Pay Act are enough protection to provide equal pay. According to Collins, the proposed law would “impose a real burden … on small businesses.” She thinks that women get paid less because of their own choices.
Nebraska’s Deb Fischer (second from right) accused Democrats of politics for putting the bill forward for the second time, this time one week before the congressional recess for midterm elections.
Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski is on the right.
All four of these women benefit from equal pay. Each one gets $174,000 a year for being in Congress, exactly the same amount as male congressional members take home. That’s 4.6 times women workers’ media yearly income, but only 3.5 times that of working men.
At the beginning of September, the Republican National Party sent this tweet: “This #LaborDay, the White House & Democrats believe paying women less than men is an acceptable practice.” It appears that none of the U.S. Senators got the tweet.
The bill bans salary secrecy that currently punishes employees from exchanging information about amounts of salary. Although mandated secrecy is illegal, about half the private sector workers are told that they cannot talk about pay. The wage gap has shrunk in workplaces that don’t ban this secrecy. Pay scales are usually transparent in the federal workforce, and the wage gap there has fallen significantly during the past 20 years. There is also less wage gap among unionized workers that also have the wage transparency.
The proposed law would also narrow definitions of justifications for pay differences between men and women with the same skills, responsibilities, and working conditions.
Some industries, such as finance, pay women 66 percent of men’s wages; overall women get 71 cents for every dollar that men receive. Women’s poverty rate is 13 percent, compared to 11 percent for men, and women in low-wage jobs make 13 percent less than men do in similar jobs.
A “low-wage” job is one with an hourly median pay of $10.10 or less. Women comprise about two-thirds of low-wage works in the United States. About 80 percent of these workers have finished high school, and some have completed some college or have an associate’s degree. They struggle to support families on the $7.25 per hour, which brings an annual salary of $14,500.
Terminology leads to unequal pay for men and women. Maids and housekeepers, traditionally women, are paid less than janitors, a job typically with men. The work is basically the same, but women are paid less. Leadership positions such as manager and supervisor typically go to men.
Despite laws protecting pregnant workers and mothers, these women can be discriminated against in bizarre ways. Doctors tell pregnant women to stay well hydrated, but employers tell them that they cannot carry a bottle of water.
Top on the GOP Senate agenda, according to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is tax breaks for big business. In a speech last week, Hatch told business leaders how angry he was that Reid had procedurally blocked an amendment to extend a large number of expiring business tax breaks for two years. “I’m ready to kill somebody,” Hatch said as he left the stage. That was after he promised that those tax breaks would pass by the end of the year.
Nothing about immigration reform, extending unemployment benefits, energy efficient legislation, infrastructure bills including highway funding, Voting Rights Act legislation, and all 12 annual appropriations bills.
Over in the House, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) addressed an issue of great importance last week. The chair of the Science Committee had a hearing on privatizing asteroids. Introduced by Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), the bipartisan legislation states:
“Any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto. Any assertion of superior right to execute specific commercial asteroid resource utilization activities in outer space shall prevail if it has found to be first in time, derived upon a reasonable basis, and in accordance with all existing international obligations of the United States.”
Finders, keepers out there—except for the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, barring nations from claiming extraterrestrial land as sovereign territory. The bill also no ban on mining efforts that harm or impair scientific causes or public interests. Plus there’s no indication that the U.S. is even close to needing such a law.
The Science Committee has a number of colorful characters including Mo Brooks (R-AL) who warns about a “war on whites,” Steve Stockman (R-TX) who debuted a bumper sticker reading “If Babies Had Guns They Wouldn’t Be Aborted,” and Paul Broun (R-GA) who referred to evolution and the Big Bang as “lies from the pit of hell.”
If the House can tear themselves away from debates about outer space, it will discuss and vote on the president’s proposal to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels in the war on ISIL. The proposal will probably be an amendment to the Continuing Resolution to keep the nation from a federal government shutdown in two weeks. No money is attached to the amendment, but the Pentagon can shift existing funds for any needs.
The public polls in favor of air strikes and training but opposes the use of U.S. forces in the Middle East. With Election Day in 49 days, representatives have to use careful language not to offend their constituents. Over in the Senate, Roger Wicker (R-MS) wanted to know how long it would take to win, what the definition of victory is, and a number of other issues that certainly won’t bring any definitive answers.
The rest of September in Congress will be the GOP dance to stay out of trouble until November 4.