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Senator: 'It Costs More to Be a Woman; We Pay More for Everything'

Sens. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) join a news conference at the Capitol on equal pay for women on April 6, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Making a pitch for the Paycheck Fairness Act, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said it “costs more to be a woman” since women “pay more for everything” from healthcare to dry cleaning.

The legislation would make revisions to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Mikulski touted the proposed bill for outlawing retaliation resulting from the sharing of pay information.

“If you ask another fellow worker what are they getting paid you can be fired, or if a good guy says we want to tell you what we get paid, there you are, a computer operator, there you are, an X-ray technician, again, clear metrics on the same job but not the same pay, that person who tells you the information can be fired. We want to close that loophole. Right now, businesses use excuses to pay women less,” Mikulski said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

She also said women should be able to pursue “punitive damages” for pay discrimination because “back pay just isn’t enough.”

“It costs more to be a woman. We pay more for everything. We continue to have to fight the battle of more expensive medical care, childcare and even dry cleaning. They charge us more to do our blouses than guys shirts,” Mikulski said. “We women are tired of being taken to the cleaners. Pass ‘Paycheck Fairness.’”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said it is wrong that the U.S. women’s national soccer team makes less than the men’s team.

“This unfortunately is not confined just to soccer,” she said. “Regardless of what field they work in, one thing is clear, 16 years into the 21st century, women deserve to be on an even playing field.”

According to Politifact, “There’s no way to easily compare the women with the men because their compensation agreements are drastically different. For example, women earn a $72,000 base salary and benefits like health insurance, while men are paid on a per-game basis and do not receive a salary or benefits.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the way to judge how “well a country is doing” is how well it treats women.

“The United States needs to take care of business at home first before we can lecture other countries,” he said. “Paycheck Fairness should have passed a long time ago.”

Citing Economic Policy Institute data, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said if the gender wage gap had been closed from 1979 to 2014, women’s wages could be 70 percent higher today.

“The game is rigged when a woman can be fired for just asking how much the guy down the hall makes for doing the same job. This has to stop,” she said. “The fact is, for middle-class families it takes two incomes to get by these days and many families depend as much if not more on a woman’s salary as they do on a man’s.”

Other Democratic senators including Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also spoke at the news conference.