The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday on a procedural motion to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act. Most Democrats, including incumbent Senator Mark Pryor are highlighting the vote in advance of November elections as something that distinguishes themselves from Republicans.
Pryor argued the bill would help women receive equal pay.
“I think this is very important because in today’s economy what we see is that more and more women are the primary breadwinners for their families. But as it turns out when you look at the numbers women only get paid 77 cents on the dollar compared to what a man makes,” said Pryor.
On a telephone conference call before the vote Pryor also criticized his Republican opponent Tom Cotton for not supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act in the past.
In a statement Cotton spokesman David Ray argued gender-based wage discrimination is already protected against. Ray characterized the vote as a “gimmick” by Pryor to distract women from a poor economy. Here's Ray's full statement on behalf of the Cotton campaign:
"The fact is that gender-based wage discrimination is illegal in America today, and Tom Cotton supports equal pay for equal work. When employers break the law, they should be subject to stiff criminal penalties. Senator Pryor is pointing to a procedural gimmick vote in order to distract from the failed Obama-Pryor economic policies that are forcing millions of women, especially moms, to work longer hours or take second jobs just to make ends meet, and because of Senator Pryor's vote for Obamacare, millions of women have lost their current health insurance plans that he promised they could keep."
Pryor’s campaign, through the Women for Pryor coalition, has been trying to highlight differences between Pryor’s and Cotton’s voting records on issues such as equal pay and the Violence Against Women Act. Cotton has voted against versions of both measures.
Green Party nominee Mark Swaney, of Fayetteville, argues the Paycheck Fairness Act is about equal rights.
"The Green Party and I support equal pay for equal work. Further, we support the Equal Rights Amendment, and are pro-choice. It’s long past time to treat women as second class citizens, it hurts everybody to do that," said Swaney.
Libertarian Nathan LaFrance argued further laws won't address the cause of disparity in pay. Like Cotton, LaFrance, said existing laws are sufficient.
The answer to the wage gap is not more federal regulation - we already have strong anti-discrimination laws in place. The answer lies with our parents, teachers and local communities. We need to create interest for our young girls in these high-demand fields, and encourage them to pursue higher education and career paths in the STEM and business fields. If we can do this, we will see the wage gap dissipate naturally, and we will bring more diversity into some of the most important areas of our economy."
LaFrance contended most pay disparity has to do with women choosing less financially lucrative careers. He did not touch on Pryor's argument that women with the same education and experience level as men are paid less.