Senate Republicans on Monday blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that Democrats are pushing as part of their message to women in the midterm elections.

Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the legislation but fell short in a 52-40 vote. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, voted against the bill.


Republicans had blocked the same bill earlier this year in a 53-44 vote.

Senate Democrats said they were giving Republicans another opportunity to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.

“A woman who performs the same work as a man should be paid the same as a man,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-Nev.) said. “Senate Republicans simply cannot accept that notion. … American women deserve better.”

The Paycheck Fairness Act is part of Democrats’ “Fair Shot” agenda that is meant to draw a contrast with the GOP ahead of November’s election. 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.

Republicans say the Democrats are wasting time on political show votes. The Senate will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded after Sept. 30 or the government will shut down.

“They plan to devote almost all the remaining time between now and November to what Democrats like to call ‘messaging bills,’” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team McConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) said last week. “These are bills designed intentionally to fail so that Democrats can make campaign ads about them failing.”

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 Democrats this year.

Republicans need six seats to gain control of the Senate.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would punish employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information and would allow workers to sue for punitive damages for wage discrimination, among other things.

The measure would require 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 because it was a “giveaway” to trial lawyers since it would remove caps on punitive damages against businesses found guilty of discrimination.

The Chamber of Commerce urged a “no” vote on the bill, saying it would “erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities.”

— Alexander Bolton contributed to this article.