Leader Reid says Romney is 'afraid' to speak out about Paycheck Fairness Act

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called on presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to clarify his position on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and said it is "shameful" that he and other Republicans are not supporting the Democratic bill, which faces a vote Tuesday.

"The only Republicans who are against our commonsense measure are the ones that are in Congress in Washington," Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. "Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation. He may oppose it but he's afraid to say anything about it. Why? Because it's obvious why.

"He should show some leadership, in my opinion … and tell his fellow Republicans that opposing fair pay for all Americans is shameful," Reid said of Romney. "Instead, no one knows where he stands."

The Democratic bill, S. 3220, would expand a 1938 law that gives women the ability to fight pay discrimination, including by barring retaliation against women who seek to discover whether they are being underpaid.

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It would also require companies to report salary information so the government can better enforce federal fair-pay laws. Republicans — somewhat quietly — have taken the side of business groups, which have said these reporting requirements in particular would pose a significant amount of red tape for companies and possibly open their pay policies to legal challenge even when they are not based on gender discrimination.

Romney has reportedly addressed the issue indirectly by criticizing the Obama administration for failing to create a good jobs environment for anyone, and saying he supports pay equity without saying he supports the bill.

Republicans are expected to vote against the bill Tuesday afternoon, keeping it from getting the 60 votes needed to advance.

At a political level, Republicans have criticized Democrats for successfully passing the Lilly Ledbetter law in 2009, which allows women to challenge unfair pay at any time during their employment, not just in the first six months. Republicans have said that Democrats praised the Ledbetter bill when it passed as something that solved the problem, and that they are bringing up another bill to score political points for the November election.

But Reid said Tuesday that the Ledbetter law does not go far enough, as women still earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by males for the same job. He also said African-American women earn just over 50 cents per dollar, and Hispanic women earn just over 60 cents compared to men in the same job.

"The Equal Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have narrowed the pay gap. They haven't closed the gap," Reid said. "So Congress must do more."