GOP Senate blocks paycheck bill, says better ways to achieve fairness

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a bill that calls for equal pay in the workplace, saying they are concerned about jobs and workplace fairness but not legislation that rewards plaintiff lawyers.

“We already addressed that issue before,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the vote. “This issue is about rewarding plaintiffs lawyers for filing lawsuits. We think it is the wrong way to go about dealing with this issue. It’s an open secret that the plaintiffs bar has been an active support of Democrats all along.”

The vote was 52-47, failing to get the 60 votes needed to advance, as expected.

President Obama and fellow Democratic have argue the legislation is needed to protect people who try to learn how their pay compares to that of coworkers.

The vote also was the latest effort by Democrats to protect their lead among critical women voters this presidential and congressional election year.

McConnell shut down questions about whether the vote might again create the perception that Republicans are out of touch with the concerns of women, who in some cases are paid less than male counterparts.

“I'd be happy to repeat the answer,” McConnell said. “We don't think America has any problems related to too little litigation.”

Obama strongly supports the bill. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not taken a stand, but his campaign says he favors pay equity in the workplace.

“It’s 2012, but Republicans are stuck in the past,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “By blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act from receiving the simple vote it deserves, Senate Republicans have … joined House Republicans, who just last week voted” against the bill.

Pelosi, D-Calif., also said the Republicans’ vote “stood against fundamental fairness for America’s working women and families struggling to get by."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.