Senate Republicans decided not to block the advancement of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the legislation procedurally; the tally was 73-25 on Wednesday.
More than 15 Republicans voted to end debate on the motion to proceed to S. 2199, despite all Republicans voting against it in April. Republicans used similar tactics earlier this week in allowing a constitutional amendment on campaign spending to advance.
Senate Democrats said they were giving Republicans another opportunity to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.
“If Republicans are going to reject our ideas, I think our constituents deserve to hear what else they have to offer,” Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Reid: House-passed Zika deal a 'disgrace' Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate MORE (D-Wash.) said. “In the coming days, we are going to bring these issues to the forefront once again and make another push for our Republican colleagues to join us.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act is part of Democrats’ Fair Shot agenda — progressive priorities meant to draw distinction between the two parties ahead of November’s elections. The Senate is also expected to vote on raising the minimum wage and allowing students to refinance their loans — all measures that have already failed this year.
“The Paycheck Fairness Act is a common-sense plan that supports the basic idea that all Americans should receive equal pay for equal work,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenGOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Overnight Defense: Senate rejects new FBI surveillance powers | Brexit vote looms | Push for new military aid deal with Israel Senators push vote to condemn Russia's 'reckless actions' MORE (D-N.H.), who is running for reelection against Scott Brown. “I will continue to fight this inequality until it is corrected, and it’s time for Republicans in the Senate to stop playing politics with this important legislation that will help women, families and our economy.”
Republicans have accused Democrats of voting for the sake of PR while the Senate has only two weeks to legislate before adjourning for midterm campaigning. The Senate will have to use that time to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded after Sept. 30 and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
“Why are they wasting time on political show votes?” Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP senator: Obama ‘believes he is above the law’ Republican senator expects Trump will 'embrace' GOP platform Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on MORE (R-Wyo.) asked Wednesday.
Democrats have benefitted from a gender gap at the polls, and the party hopes that by emphasizing certain issues, it will be positioned to take advantage on Nov. 4.
Democrats outperformed Republicans among women voters in 2012, one of the reasons they picked up two Senate seats despite predictions they would lose ground. Democratic pollsters worry that low turnout, especially among unmarried women, will hurt the party this year.
The legislation punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination.
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.
Republicans said they opposed the legislation as a “giveaway” to trial lawyers because it would remove caps on punitive damages against businesses found guilty of discrimination.
— Alex Bolton contributed to this article.