Manchin casts first vote with Democrats

He may have shot a bullet through the Democratic agenda on the campaign trail, but newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has so far been faithful to his party.

In the first vote called during in the lame duck session, Manchin, who was sworn in Monday, decided to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that aims to ensure pay equity in the workplace.

Democrats backed the bill along party lines, with 58 voting in favor of it. But it failed to get the 60 votes needed to bring it to the Senate floor for consideration.

It’s no surprise that Manchin backed the bill. Labor unions who helped elect him have been pushing the measure, which would update and expand the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

The bill would make it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination. Unions liked the bill because it would eliminate some of the competitive advantage held by  non-unionized companies.

The bill’s sponsors point to U.S. Census Bureau statistics showing that women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Republicans opposing the bill say pay differences are often the result of individual choices made by employees or the negotiating skills of job seekers. They argue that the bill would simply be used as a tool for trial lawyers to file frivolous lawsuits.

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