NOW with Alex Wagner | June 05, 2012
>>> it really disturbs me, rachel, when i hear people that's voted in to office in washington and they will vote against something that would help most american families across this nation.
>> that was fair pay advocate lily ledbetter on the " rachel maddow show" last night. she questioned whether lawmakers are protecting half the people that put them into office. it will be put to test when discusses a procedural vote to reduce the pay gap between men and women . democrats support it but republicans are vowing to dead it. joining us democratic senator from maryland, barbara mikulski , the bill's main sponsor. great to see you.
>> hi there, alex. we've got a big day here and a big vote.
>> you do indeed. let me ask you off the bat, are you surprised at the republican resistant to this? or are they surprised at how they haven't really been able to spin it that well?
>> well, i've been -- i've been surprised at how they don't support equal pay for equal work , how they continue to muzzle their more moderate members who often seek a bipartisan solution and how they would hide behind procedure to maintain the status or the stagnant quo in the issues around wage discrimination . i thought every american wanted to be sure that you got equal pay for equal work if you're doing the same job, have the same education and the same seniority.
>> senator, i got to ask you on the flip side , of course, critics are saying this has become a game of tit for tat between those in congress who are putting forward bills they know have no chance for package but in order to win political votes. it's a chance to draw out republicans and make them look like they are in fact continuing the war on women . how do you respond to that?
>> i'll tell you why i brought this bill up. i've been fighting for this equal pay for equal work for a long time. june 10th will be the 40th anniversary of the equal pay for equal work . in the civil rights act . in those 40 years we've only gained 18 cents. we now make 77 cents, we women , for the same job that men do who make a dollar. in 1963 , we made 59 cents. 49 years later we are pretty mad about this. we are stymied because there are so many loophole in the bill and the paycheck fairness bill closes the loopholes. for example, if you even ask the person next to you how much they're making who's doing the same job, you can be retaliated against, you can be fired, you can get a pink slip . that's just not fair. we want to close that kind of loophole.
>> i want to open this up to my fellow panelists here. when the senator talks about those figures just how far we haven't come in terms of equal pay for the same job, you know, how do you make an argument against -- proposals like this, the lilly ledbetter fair pay act ? we've watched mitt romney 's delicate ballet around this issue. we'll talk about that in a second. but this is something you would thing there could be some amount of bipartisan agreement on?
>> that's too much to hope for. i would imagine that a republican argument might be this is extra regulation, more red tape . it's particularly urgent because women only gain 16% of all the jobs created in the recovery. that's not down to bad obama policies, let me say that, but because of money spent bringing manufacturing back and those jobs have disproportionately favored men. but this is a particularly important moment to make sure that women are receiving equal pay for equal work .
>> senator, i want to play some comments made by your colleague harry reid regarding mitt romney 's position on this. let's hear that sound. let's take a listen.
>> even mitt romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation. he may oppose it, but he's afraid to say anything about it. why? because it's obvious why. he should show some leadership. in my opinion governor romney , and tell his fellow republicans that opposing fair pay for all americans is shameful.
>> now, senator, the romney camp released a statement yesterday saying, of course, governor romney supports pay equity for women . in order to have pay equity women need to have jobs and they've been getting crushed in the anemic obama economy. as president mitt romney will create a pro jobs business climate that will put all americans back to work. we use the phrase "delicate ballet." how has the romney campaign handled this issue over the last months?
>> i believe there's words and there's deeds. if romney was really serious about equal pay for equal work , he'd be working the phones today. he'd be on the phone with mitch mcconnell , the republican leader, saying let's move this bill forward, let's put this issue to rest. he would be calling wavering republicans and saying, look, when i'm president, i want women to get equal pay for equal work , but let's start now. vote for this bill and let's get our economy going. instead he's out there giving speeches and we're on the floor advocating legislative remedies. we're the deed people, they're the word people.
>> you know, jonathan, we look at what happened on the student loan debate, which is to say that mitt romney came out and said, the interest rates can't go up. and effectively republicans in congress had to fall in line. he could theoretically as a senator say, i am for pay equity , and this should go forward and, of course, co-signing to a democratic piece of legislation is not something he's likely to do, but in terms of the issue and saying this is a priority, we've got to account for the discrepancy between women 's wages and men's wages as long as they're unfair.
>> well, this is the one issue where you called it a delicate ballet that the governor has been dancing on this issue. this gets back to something we talked about earlier in the show where you're trying to tie what senator reid, majority leader reid said in that clip about where is governor romney and senator mikulski saying where is governor romney working the phones, tying congressional action to the titular head of the republican party , linking him to something that he clearly doesn't want to talk about, but what's interesting, this is an economic issue, this is about paychecks, about families, this is about putting food on the table, which plays to the wheelhouse that he's been pushing, governor romney 's been pushing, yet his actions, it makes it seem as though he's viewing this primarily as a social issue than an economic issue.
>> that is the problem. senator barbara mikulski , thank you so