Democratic legislation meant to fight gender discrimination in the workplace failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate Tuesday on a procedural vote.

In a 52 to 47 tally the Senate defeated the Paycheck Fairness Act. The legislation aimed to increase protections for women filing gender-discrimination lawsuits, as well as create a federal grant program to improve women's salary negotiating skills. 

The vote came down strictly along party lines, with the two independent senators voting with Democrats and Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkThe Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump ObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.) not voting. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? Racial representation: A solution to inequality in the People’s House MORE (D-Nev.) changed his vote so that he could bring the bill up again. 

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The bill's defeat came after Democrats made a tightly coordinated media blitz to call for the bill's passage. President Obama, Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Tech: FCC begins rolling back net neutrality | Sinclair deal puts heat on regulators | China blames US for 'Wanna Cry' attack Sasse dominates Twitter with Schumer photo, 'reefer' caption The Democrats can be great again, here’s how MORE (D-N.Y.) and Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiBipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day After 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? MORE (D-M.d.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rosa Delauro (D-Conn.) all held conference calls expressing strong support for the legislation. But Republicans strongly opposed the bill, leaving Democrats short of the seven votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Democrats said the paycheck bill's defeat is the latest example of a Republican "war on women."

"It is a very sad day here in the United States Senate, but it's a sadder day every day when paycheck day comes and women continue to make less than men," Mikulski said after the vote. "We're sorry that this vote occurred strictly on party lines."

President Obama accused Republicans of putting "partisan politics ahead of women and their families." 

"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families," Obama said in a statement. 

"Despite the progress that has been made over the years, women continue to earn substantially less than men for performing the same work. My Administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right for equal pay for equal work, as we rebuild our economy so that hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, and every American gets a fair shot to succeed," he added.

Senate Republicans argued that the measure does not strengthen laws fighting gender discrimination in the workplace and instead just creates more bureaucracy.

Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerHouse panel beefs up tax staff A lifeboat for flood insurance: Roll back out-of-date government ‘safety net’ GOP rep calls for special prosecutor on Russia MORE (R-Nev.) introduced an alternative to the Paycheck Fairness Act, called the End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act. Both the paycheck bill and Heller's bill include protections for women asking about salaries to try to find if they are being discriminated against, but Heller's bill does not include a provision in the Paycheck Fairness Act that allows the federal government to collect salary information to monitor possible pay discrimination. Heller's bill also does not include federal grants to help women improve their salary-negotiating skills.

"Let me be clear, pay discrimination based on gender is unacceptable," Heller said Tuesday, before the vote. "Despite the political rhetoric around here, everyone agrees on this fact. The question is, will the Paycheck Fairness Act actually address workplace inequality? And the simple answer is no."

Outside business groups like the Chamber of Commerce also expressed opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act. On Monday the chamber sent out a letter stating that it "strongly opposes" the measure and urged lawmakers to vote against it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in voting against the bill, GOP senators were ignoring broad public support for the measure, including among Republicans. 

"This is a common-sense measure with broad public support. Nine out of 10 Americans – including 81 percent of men and 77 percent of Republicans – support this legislation," Reid said. "But once again, the only Republicans who are left opposing a common-sense measure to improve our economy and help middle-class families are the ones here in Washington."

Democrats argued that not passing the paycheck bill would hurt the economy by leaving money in the hands of the wealthy instead of the middle class. 


"This is an issue, Mr. President, that not only affects women, but our families and our economy," Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE (D-Calif.) said. "You would see the economy stimulated because middle-class families would spend those dollars, they don't hoard those dollars."

Boxer said she could not comprehend why Republicans would want to block the bill but was sure "they'll come up with some excuse."

Mikulski said that the Fair Paycheck Act would not harm small businesses.

"What I would like to be able to say is that small business has protections under the Equal Pay Act, under the existing law, which this would not change," Mikulski said. "The Equal Pay Act already exempts small business that makes less than $500,000 in annual revenue per year. So it keeps the equal pay exemption intact."

Prior to the vote, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDem senator compares Trump to Blagojevich Rosenstein: I stand by Comey memo Mueller to ask Congress to step back Russia investigations: report MORE (D-Ill.) predicted it would be a "partisan roll call."

"There will be Democrats in favor of ending this discrimination and virtually all Republicans — and I hope that I'm wrong on this — are going to vote against it," Durbin said.

This story was updated at 4:12 p.m.