Earlier in this 2012 campaign season, women’s issues - such as the right to choose and insurance coverage for contraception - became hot topics.
Many prominent Republican women argued these issues were not of primary importance to them or to women generally. Instead, they insisted that economic concerns, the ability to feed and clothe their families, would be the key drivers in choosing a president and Congressional representatives.
With that in mind, I would like to take look at the direct impact Republican economic policies and actions have on women.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau, as of 2010, 58.6% of women were either working or looking for work. This translates to almost 47% of the workforce. 73% of those employed were working full-time. The median average income for full-time working women is only 81% of that for men (again, as of 2010, and some indices go as low as 77%).
Lilly Ledbetter brought the issue of pay inequality to the fore when she sued her former employer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Ledbetter performed the same work as her male colleagues for 19 years, but received 40% less pay.
Her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled against Ledbetter because she failed to file suit within the required time period. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the dissent, argued the 180-day statute of limitations should not apply to pay discrimination, citing, for example, how difficult it is to discover small discrepencies in pay over what can sometimes amount to long periods of time.
In response, Democrats in Congress wrote the "Lilly Ledbetter" legislation, intending to overrule the 2007 Supreme Court opinion. The measure initially failed due to Republican resistance in the Senate. However, the measure passed the Democrat controlled House and Senate in 2009 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act became the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, a companion to the Ledbetter Act, would expand the 1963 Equal Pay Act in a concerted effort to address male-female pay inequality. It would seem a ‘no-brainer’ to pass this important piece of legislation.
The House passed the bill in 2009, but the Senate failed to do so. House Democrats introduced the bill again in 2012, but this time the legislation failed on a pure partisan vote. Why? Do Republicans think women deserve to earn less? It seems so.
Rodney Frelinghuysen, the current representative from New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, and Paul Ryan, the current vice-presidential candidate, are among those Republicans who voted against The Paycheck Fairness Act as well as against the original Lilly Ledbetter Act.
I am confident that Republican women will demand to be treated as equals by the men in their party – or maybe they’ll just choose to vote the Democratic line in November, as so many of them have told me they intend to do.