Five key Democratic senators might have some explaining to do after revelations that they pay female staffers significantly less than male staffers. As Democrats ratchet up “war on women” rhetoric and advance doubtful economic claims in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, their own payrolls are coming under tighter scrutiny.
The Obama White House has already attracted some unwanted attention to the administration’s own compensation practices; men make more money than women in the White House. And according to findings by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Democrats facing potentially tough races this fall also pay female staffers less. The NRSC names Alaska’s Mark Begich, Colorado’s Mark Udall, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Michigan’s Gary Peters, and Virginia’s Mark Warner.
Begich pays women staffers 82 cents for every dollar men makes.
Udall pays women staffers 85 cents for every dollar men make.
Peters pays women staffers 67 cents for every dollar men make.
Warner pays women staffers 75 cents for every dollar men make.
A Udall spokesman denied the accuracy of the NRSC’s findings, telling National Review Online they do not reflect the current staff and its salaries. He added that “women, when they are doing the same work in our office, are making the same wages or better” than their male counterparts. Additionally, many of the Colorado senator’s top staffers are women.
Warner’s office echoed those sentiments, in part. “Senator Warner has always been committed to equal pay for equal work: Staff members with similar responsibilities and experience are paid the same regardless of gender,” said a spokesman.
Begich’s, Landrieu’s, and Peters’s offices did not respond to requests for comment.
An examination of the staffers’ salaries show that part of the pay discrepancy is largely due to differences in work experience and the seniority of the positions, a defense the White House used for its pay gap. After initially snapping at reporters for their questions on the subject, White House press secretary Jay Carney later conceded that “a lot of things go into that discrepancy.”
Yet the president and other Democrats overlook or omit this nuanced explanation when it comes to the salaries other employers pay their workers.
Alleging a gender pay gap, and advancing legislation ostensibly aimed at solving the problem, has been a central piece of the Democrats’ messaging for the 2014 elections. But the strategy appears to be backfiring.
The popular talking point that women earn on average only 77 cents for ever dollar earned by men had gone unquestioned for many years, but the latest round of attention brought a series of fact-checks by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other media effectively debunking this old truism.
On Wednesday, a vote to move the Paycheck Fairness Act to debate fell short of the 60-vote threshold, as the Senate voted 53–44 for the motion. Democrats have promised to reintroduce the bill.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.