A piece of legislation seeking to help women attain fair wages got its first victory on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. According to The Hill, The Democratic-majority House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill aimed at addressing wage inequality and encouraging workplace impartiality for women, on a 242-187 vote. The bill would also prevent employers from asking about their workers' past salaries or penalizing them for inquiring about wage differences.
Officially known as HR 7, the bill has been reintroduced periodically since 1997, per The Hill. This year, Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro reintroduced it in January. It was co-sponsored by 238 Democrats and one Republican, New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, The Hill reported. On Wednesday, a majority of the House voted in favor of the legislation.
"After decades of failing to address persistent wage inequity, this is our opportunity to strengthen the Equal Pay Act, boast the rights of working women, lift families out of poverty, and finally align our remedies for gender discrimination with other established anti-discrimination laws," Bobby Scott, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said of the bill on Wednesday according to The Hill.
Several Republican representatives crossed party lines to join their Democratic colleagues in supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act. Texas' Will Hurd, New York's Tom Reed, Florida's Mario Diaz-Balart, Illinois' Rodney Davis, and Pennsylvania's Brian Fitzpatrick voted for the bill.
Though the Paycheck Fairness Act won the majority of support in the House of Representatives, not everyone was pleased with the legislation. The Hill reported that some lawmakers claimed that the bill would cause "unnecessary" lawsuits. One of the critics of the bill was a ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx.
Foxx, who is a Republican representing North Carolina, stated: "Everyone in this House is in agreement that pay discrimination on the basis of sex is wrong. No matter how you look at it, the law is very clear about this. But this bill doesn't do anything to help working women. This is a bill for trial lawyers, plain and simple."
In spite of the criticism from some Republicans, the Paycheck Fairness Act has been praised as a much-need piece of legislation that could alleviate workplace discrimination for women.
Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton tweeted about her support for the bill. "The pay gap isn’t a myth," Wexton said on Tuesday. "It’s math: for a woman working full time, the current wage gap represents a loss of more than $400,000 over the course of her career. Let's send a message that when women succeed, America succeeds — let’s pass the Paycheck Fairness Act."
The vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, Katherine Clark, tells Bustle in a statement: "As a freshman legislator, this bill was the first I cosponsored. I am incredibly proud to see this moment come to life, so we can finally honor the vital role that women play in our economy. Today is an exciting day for equality and for our country."
Although the Paycheck Fairness Act sailed through the House, it could face trouble in the Senate. It's where Republicans form the majority, which may mean an uphill battle for the bill and its supporters.