Three years without a federal budget, but the Senate is preparing to act on a paycheck trick.
Senate Democrats are planning a new ploy to put Mitt Romney and Republicans on the defensive with female voters.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will bring to the floor in coming weeks legislation to protect women from retaliation by employers if they inquire about salaries paid to male colleagues.
Republicans voted in unison to block the bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, when it came to the floor in November of 2010.
Democrats say it will be difficult for GOP senators to back out of their opposition, especially because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has staunchly opposed the legislation.
Mitt Romney will either have to split with Republicans and an important business group or take a position that could further erode his support among women.
“Romney’s going to be on defense on the Paycheck Fairness Act,” said a senior Democratic aide.
“Women are making 70 cents on a dollar of what a man is making. This will resonate with females across the spectrum. If Republicans to a person are coming down against it, it will be at their political peril,” the aide said.
A spokeswoman for Romney’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The bill would prohibit employer discrimination for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing the wages of another employee.
How often do employers actually “discriminate” against an employee for asking about the salary of another employee? And what constitutes “discriminating” versus just telling the nosey employee to mind their own business and get back to work?
Three years without a federal budget. Obama’s own White House has been called a “hostile workplace” by women who worked there. But the Democrats are happy to proffer more invasive laws on businesses that already find it hard enough to stay afloat in Obama’s economy:
The Chamber [of Commerce] outlined its concerns in a letter to senators during the last lame duck session.
“This bill would, among other things, expand remedies under [the Equal Pay Act] to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages, significantly erode employer defense for legitimate pay disparities, and impose invalid tools for enforcement by the Labor Department,” the group wrote.
The Chamber argues the legislation would increase the opportunity for frivolous litigation and could result in increased costs for companies as they hire attorneys and conduct investigations to examine claims.
Perhaps some female White House will sue her boys’ club employer for salary discrimination.
Update: Glenn Reynolds proposes a counter attack:
I think Romney should promise that, if elected, he will seek to extend sexual-harassment law to cover members of Congress. Then ask Senators where they stand on that issue . . .