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Sen. Mikulski Undeterred By Paycheck Fairness Act Defeat

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Sen. Barbara Mikulski was one of the most vocal of area lawmakers in support of the defeated Paycheck Fairness Act.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Hrybyk
Sen. Barbara Mikulski was one of the most vocal of area lawmakers in support of the defeated Paycheck Fairness Act.

The region's Democrats are up in arms that Republicans filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act Tuesday, which would have given women new tools to combat pay discrimination in the workforce.

Women in the District earn 91 percent of what their male counterparts pull in annually, making the pay disparity here the smallest in the nation. Meanwhile, women in Maryland get 83 percent of their male counterparts, and ladies from the Commonwealth of Virginia are at 79 percent.

The Paycheck Fairness Act attempted to close that gap by protecting women in the workforce who want their salaries to be in line with the men they work with. And it forces employers to prove any salary differences are job-related instead of gender based.

Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski helped lead the fight for the bill in the Senate. "There they go again," she said Tuesday after the measure was defeated. "We lost a pretty big vote today."

The final tally was 52-47, with every Republican opposing the legislation. The GOP maintains the bill was a Democratic attempt to appeal to female voters, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said the legislation would do more to help lawyers than anyone else.

"This should be called 'the trial lawyer' bonanza bill.' It has nothing to do with the women — they'll get very little out of it. What it allows is huge class action suits with very little defense by any employer," said Enzi.

Still, Mikulski was undeterred by the defeat. "But the fight will continue. It could be in the House. It could be in the Senate. It could be an amendment on another bill," she says. "We just know we're going to be here and we're not going to back down, we're not going to back away and we're not going to back off."

The Maryland senator expects Democrats will use the bill's defeat to energize women voters. "Our next strategy is is grassroots organizing," she says.

Analysts say the defeat of the Paycheck Fairness Act paints an even starker contrast between the two parties on gender issues ahead of November's elections.

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