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Senate Republicans Still Stalling
The "Lame Duck" session of Congress is underway this week, and just as they have throughout the 111th Congress, Senate conservatives are still using the filibuster to keep important pieces of legislation from moving forward.
Rebecca Lefton reports for Think Progress that today the Senate voted 58-41 against allowing debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act and help end discriminatory pay practices against women. The bill had already passed the House and would have surely been sent to the President's desk had it received 2 extra votes.
Every Republican (except Lisa Murkowski, who was not present) as well as Ben Nelson (D-FL) voted against cloture, including Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Both Collins and Snowe voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act at the beginning of the term, helping to remove barriers for workers seeking compensation for discriminatory pay practices.
According to the National Women's Law Center, even after the passage of the landmark Equal Pay Act, women still earn $0.77 for $1 men make, translating into $10,000 in lost wages per worker per year. Furthermore, mothers are the primary or co-primary breadwinners of 2/3 of American families.
Another important piece of legislation pending in the lame duck session is the extension of unemployment benefits. But Arthur Delaney reports for the Huffington Post that Democrats have not scheduled a vote on an extension because they don't believe they have the necessary votes to overcome the filibuster.
Jobless benefits are set to expire at the end of the month, putting 2 million people in jeopardy with the holiday season fast-approaching. Republicans have consistently opposed extensions, arguing that they add to the deficit. Reauthorization of benefits for a full year would cost at most $65 billion.
However, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island argues that the same people who oppose extensions for the unemployed because of deficit concerns have no problem supporting an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
On the one hand they want to provide $700 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans but not pay for them. And on the other hand they're demanding that UI benefits for the middle class be paid for. That's a little like someone on a diet who orders a Diet Coke and a Big Mac simultaneously.
Not surprisingly, one union has jumped into the action as well. Visitors to the AFL-CIO's homepage are greeted with a clock counting down until benefits expire.
UPDATE: The White House released a statement condemning a minority of the Senate from preventing debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. It highlights that it not only helps families ensure they aren't bringing home smaller paychecks than they deserve, but also businesses that are at a disadvantage for not using such discriminatory practices.
UPDATE: Pro-Choice women's group EMILYs List published a blog post yesterday calling on the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Read it here.