WASHINGTON (Reuters) — United States President Barack Obama urged Congress on Monday to pass legislation to help women get equal pay for equal work, emphasizing his support for an important issue among female voters even though it has little chance of becoming law.
Speaking on the topic of gender equality, which Obama's Democrats have used to highlight differences with his Republican rival Mitt Romney, the president said the bill could also help the economy.
"This is more than just about fairness," he told a conference call to urge the Senate to back the Paycheck Fairness Act. "Women are the breadwinners for a lot of families and if they're making less than men do for the same work, families are going to have to get by for less money."
The Senate will hold a procedural vote on Tuesday on a motion to debate the bill. Democratic leaders are not expected to get the 60 votes needed to proceed, a clear sign that the effort is more about electioneering than law-making.
The White House, pointing to data that shows American women making 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, says that closing that gap is a necessity — not a luxury — and hopes to cement female support for Obama by amplifying that message.
Surveys show Obama has more backing among women than Romney and Democrats have aggressively sought to maintain that edge by advertising what they call a Republican "war on women."
This came to the fore during the Republican party's primary election process, which picked Romney to challenge Obama on November 6, highlighting hot-button issues such asabortion, women's reproductive health and Obama's policy on contraception.
These are all topics that Democrats see as winners for Obama among this important group of voters, who favoured him heavily in 2008 and whom he needs to secure a second White House term.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would update equal pay laws by barring employers from punishing workers who share information about their pay. It also would strengthen remedies for victims of sex-based pay discrimination. Employers would have to show that any pay disparities are based on work-related factors such as education, training and experience.
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