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Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I wish to start off by giving a true and heartfelt thank-you to Senator Mikulski. There is no denying she is such a strong and steadfast leader on this issue, and we all so appreciate it. So I am very proud to come to the Senate floor this morning with her and many others to strongly support the Paycheck Fairness Act and to urge Republicans to join with us to pass this critical bill.
Over the past few months, many of us have stood together to fight back against partisan attacks on policies that impact women across America. We have not started these fights, but we were not going to stand by and watch as others tried to roll back the clock. But every time we stood up to defend women, our friends on the other side of the aisle would jump right up and say we were creating distractions or manufactured issues. They said we should be focused on the economy, as if we were the ones changing the subject and making the partisan attacks. Well, we are not going to stop standing up for women and families.
To those of our colleagues who claim to be so concerned about the economy and the middle class, now is their chance to prove to their constituents that they really mean what they say because the Paycheck Fairness Act is not just about women and it is not just about fairness, it is about the economy. When women are not paid what they deserve, middle-class families and communities pay the price.
In 1963 the Equal Pay Act marked one of the first steps toward narrowing the gap between men and women. In 2009 this Senate took another step by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to reverse the Supreme Court's Ledbetter v. Goodyear case which made it almost impossible for our workers who suffered from discrimination to seek justice.
Although we have made progress since we passed the Equal Pay Act almost 50 years ago, pay discrimination has not gone away. Women in my home State of Washington still earn 77 cents on the dollar. That is a pay gap that averages $11,834 in lost earnings each year. That is an extra 90 weeks of groceries or 179 tanks of gasoline. To women in Washington and to most women across America, that is certainly not a manufactured issue.
It is very real.
This comes at a time when more and more families rely on women's wages to put food on the table or stay in their home or build a nest egg, their retirement, or help pay for their children's education.
The importance of women in the workplace has never been as critical as today, and this has become even more evident in this tough economy. The fact is that women are now participating in the workforce at higher rates than ever before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it would seem most appropriate for this Senate to move our country once again toward eliminating pay discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.
The Paycheck Fairness Act that we are going to have a vote on today tackles pay discrimination head-on, and it should not be a partisan issue or only a women's issue. It is good for women, it is good for families, and it levels the playing field for businesses in America that are doing the right thing and paying their workers fairly.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is good for business too. It recognizes employers for excellence in their pay practices, and it strengthens Federal outreach and assistance to all businesses to help them improve equal pay practices. It is time to address this issue and finally close the wage gap for our working women and their families.
I was very proud to stand with Senator Mikulski and other Members of Congress and the President as he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 to give women who are victims of pay discrimination the tools they need to seek justice. But our work is far from complete. We are still not yet at the point where our daughters can expect to earn the same amount over their lifetime as our sons. That has to change. Now we need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act as quickly as possible to keep our Nation moving in the right direction.
Again, I thank Senator Barbara Mikulski for her tremendous leadership and steadfastness on this issue and her hard work to make this a reality for every working woman in this country.
I yield the floor.
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