From the Wall Street Journal (opinion):
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It may not be fashionable to say so these days, but three cheers for the Senate filibuster. This week the 60-vote requirement will once again help kill a nasty bit of legislating known as the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Majority Leader Harry Reid is back with this trial lawyer doozy just in time for 2012 election ads. Democrats last rolled out this attempt to equalize pay between men and women in 2010, when it also failed to get enough votes. Funny how this always seems to come up in election years.
Mr. Reid knows the bill is doomed again, and that’s more or less the point. The White House and Democrats will be happier if it doesn’t pass. Their goal is to portray GOP Senators as opposed to “equal pay for equal work,” all the better for President Obama to court women voters this fall.
The U.S. already has two broad federal laws—the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1963 Equal Pay Act—that prohibit gender-based pay discrimination. In case that wasn’t enough, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act in 2009 that as recently as March Mr. Obama said “ensures equal pay for equal work.” What changed in the last three months?
To the extent there remains a male-female wage gap, it is mostly a function of occupational and lifestyle choices. Women have tended to gravitate to professions (teachers, secretaries) that are often not as highly paid as male-dominated industries. Many also decide to leave the workforce at some point, or to work part-time, to raise children. The “pay gap” is the result of free choices in what remains of our free economy.
Democrats still see political gain in lamenting that women earn only “70 cents for every dollar earned by a man.” Their bill would rewrite labor law to require businesses to comply with a raft of new regulations in which businesses would have to justify their pay decisions. The practical effect would be to restrict flexibility in employee compensation, as employers got rid of bonus programs and other pay perks lest they open themselves up to discrimination claims.