The Trial Lawyers’ Full Employment Act
VAWA and the Paycheck Fairness Act are all about making work for lawyers.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., New York)


Betsy Woodruff

Hey guys, everyone in the Democratic party loves all women with a love that is pure as the driven snow, and none of them have ever done anything in the name of that deep, enduring love that could possibly have been motivated by lobbyists, corporate dollars, deep-pocketed donors, etc. No way could that ever happen.

At least, no way could that ever happen except in the case of the Violence Against Women Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, both of which won’t help women much but will make life way better for the wealthy trial lawyers who make it rain for the DNC and its candidates.

Let’s start with the wonky stuff, and focus on the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Violence Against Women Act (known as VAWA, rhymes with the name of that gas station). Democrats say Republicans have stalled both pieces of legislation because they hate all women, or something. Obviously the only reason you’d vote against the Violence Against Women Act is because you support violence against women, right?

Well, Democratic fundraising e-mails aside, that’s actually not true. I’ve written about this in detail a few times, but the short version of why it’s okay to oppose VAWA runs thus: First, remember that the bill’s original iteration — back in the Dark Ages of 1994 — was simple, non-controversial, and backed by a bipartisan coalition. When it got reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, it remained reasonably non-controversial. Then Patrick Leahy and the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee got ahold of it and added a few provisions that Republicans found intolerable.

One of those provisions changed how some crimes allegedly committed by non-Indians against Indians on tribal lands would be prosecuted; Republicans argue (convincingly, in my opinion) that this would undermine Americans’ constitutional rights, which are kind of a big deal. But more relevant to this article’s purposes is another element of the legislation, which would make it easier to sue domestic-violence shelters for discrimination. Republicans argue that the provision, intended to prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals, is unnecessary — they cite Democrats’ remarkable absence of evidence on systemic discrimination — and would open cash-strapped shelters to costly lawsuits. For instance, if a single-sex shelter for women didn’t let a gay man stay, it could face a lawsuit.

In other words, the new provision is bad for women and good for trial lawyers. But whatever, the Democrats are for it and the Republicans are against it, so it must save a ton of ladies!

Moving on: The Paycheck Fairness Act, which might as well be called the “Everyone Who Votes Against This Hates Women” Act, has gotten plenty of play from Democrats. They argue that women only make three-quarters of what men do because, sexism! The president gave it a shout-out in the State of the Union address, and it looks like it will be reintroduced in the Senate during this Congress. If you’re a betting man or woman, here’s a good place to put your money: Senate Democrats will reintroduce it, Republicans will filibuster it in the Senate, and Democrats will say that Republicans are going to break out their flux capacitors and send everyone in the entire country back to the 1950s. The language they use in fundraising e-mails will probably be a bit more vivid.

So why on earth do Republicans want women to make only 77 cents for every dollar men make? A few things:

First, the decidedly-not-right-leaning Washington Post says that that data point is bunk and that a more realistic figure is about $0.95 on the dollar. Much, much, much ink has been spilt on the existence or nonexistence of the wage gap, but the most important thing to know is that it’s certainly not settled science, and that there isn’t enough evidence of the existence of a problem to warrant a dramatic overhaul of national labor laws. But that hasn’t stopped the Democrats.