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Obama Courts Female Voters With Fair Pay Bill


And the Senate votes today on legislation aimed at shrinking the pay gap between men and women. It's called the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports President Obama is using the bill as a tool in the 2012 campaign.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: As President Obama often reminds audiences on the campaign trail, the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It's a law Romney says he would leave in place as president. This bill is a sort of bookend. In a conference call with supporters, the president pressured senators to vote yes.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If Congress passes the Paycheck Fairness Act, women are going to have access to more tools to claim equal pay for equal work. If they don't, if Congress doesn't act, then women are still going to have difficulty enforcing and pressing for this basic principle.

SHAPIRO: Women still earn only about 77 cents compared to every dollar that men make. This bill would let workers talk to each other about their salaries and prohibit employer retaliation. It would also make it easier for workers to bring class action lawsuits.

Dana Britton directs the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. She says Democrats have favored this bill for a long time, so the timing of today's vote may have as much to do with politics as policy.

DANA BRITTON: It certainly gets played out in the context of this war on women, right? And so Republicans are being asked to vote no on something called the Fair Pay Act.

SHAPIRO: The bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate today. It's unlikely to clear that bar, but even if it does, it's likely to die in the Republican-controlled House.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.