McSally on Equal Pay for Women

Jun 6, 2017

While campaigning in 2014, Martha McSally promised to vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act:

“As someone who has fought for women my entire life, I know first-hand that women are still not treated equally in the workplace, and if I was in Congress, I would vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act because it’s the right thing to do… Sometimes the ‘best man for the job’ to fight for women is a woman. When I replace Congressman Barber, I’ll wake up fighting for women in this community everyday.”[1]


She ran ads with the line: “Martha is standing up to her own party – supporting equal pay for equal work.”[2]


But in April of 2015, McSally voted to block consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act.[3] The bill was reintroduced in late 2015 and in 2017; it currently has 197 cosponsors; McSally is not one of them.


She ran two separate ads in her 2016 campaign claiming that she was taking on her own party to fight for equal pay for women. Political consultants point out that “This assertion is hotly contested by Democrats, who argue she has taken votes to block equal pay measures in the House. And McSally doesn’t say in [her ads] exactly what she has done to support equal pay.”[4]


In fact, she has continued to vote the Republican party line when Democrats have tried to attach workplace protections for women to other bills, such as the Right to Work Act and the Territorial Tax Parity Act.


This image of McSally as a champion of working women, so incongruous with her voting record, isn’t just coming from her own ads. She’s gotten a lot of positive publicity for chairing the Working Group on Women in the 21st Century, a series of hearings focused on “helping women overcome barriers in the workplace.” The coverage often neglects to point out that McSally typically downplays or even discourages the role of the federal government in removing those barriers. A piece in Glamour magazine was an exception: “McSally’s own legislative history shows her reluctance to put the matter of equal pay in the hands of the government rather than the private sector.” [5]


McSally, from the same interview: “Let me say that not everything takes an act of Congress to fix. And that’s not our approach, that everything is going to be fixed with legislation.”


Asked specifically what role the federal government could play, she showed some openness to a childcare tax credit, and to allowing employers the flexibility to replace overtime payments with comp time. But she wants all such measures to remain voluntary on the part of corporations. “What we don’t want to do is turn a good idea into a federal mandate.”