Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) led more than 10 Democratic senators in calling for passage of her legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act.
“We believe that women need a fair shot to get equal pay for equal work,” Mikulski said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “We want the same pay for the same job. We want it in our law books and in our checkbooks. … Today is the day for equal pay.”
Republicans are expected to block the bill because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) won't allow votes on GOP amendments. Reid stopped Republicans from offering unlimited amendments Tuesday.
"If senators want to offer amendments, we’re going to have to begin debating the bill," Reid said.
Mikulski's bill aims to make it easier for women to find out if they’re not being paid fairly and take their employers to court. It requires the Department of Labor to increase outreach and training with employers to eliminate pay inequality and to continue to collect wage information based on gender.
The bill would also create a grant program to train women on wage negotiation skills.
Mikulski also praised President Obama for taking executive action to ensure federal contractors are using equal pay practices. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, marking how long into the next year women have to work to catch up to what their male counterparts made in just one year. Women are paid 77 percent of what their male peers get.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) joined Mikulski on the Senate floor Tuesday.
“American women are tired of hearing pay inequality isn’t real and we’re ready to fight back against pay inequality,” Warren said. “It’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.”
But Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) has criticized her bill saying it should be called the "trial lawyer bonanza law" because it will allow more women to sue their employers.
"I have never heard more rubbish in my life," McCaskill said. "It's not the trial lawyers that we care about, it's the women."