Paycheck Fairness falls
The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill intended to close the gender pay gap, fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 53 to 44.
All Democrats voted for the measure, except for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who switched his vote to no for procedural reasons so that he can bring the bill back up. Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, also voted no.
The bill is part of Senate Democrats' election-year agenda, which includes measures such as a minimum-wage increase. All day Tuesday, which was Equal Pay Day, Democratic candidates and committees highlighted the need for the bill, and President Obama signed two executive actions relating to equal pay.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed to garner any Republican support, would have done a couple of things. For one, it would have made it illegal to retaliate against employees who share or ask for wage data in the course of a complaint or investigation—the thinking is that part of eliminating gender pay discrimination is increasing transparency. The act would have also made employers liable to civil action on gender pay discrimination matters, and would have directed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect gender and racial wage data from employers.
Unemployment insurance extension update
A five-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits cleared the Senate on Monday by a 59 to 38 vote, with the same six Republicans supporting the bill who voted in favor of cloture last week.
The legislation is retroactive, meaning that individuals who had been unemployed for at least six months and lost their benefits on Dec. 28 would receive a lump-sum check for the checks they've missed when and if (and that's a significant if) the bill passes the House. Benefits would expire for all individuals on May 31.
The bill now heads to the House, where passage is far from assured. Speaker Boehner has repeatedly lambasted the Senate bill as "unworkable" and has noted that it does not include any specific job-creation proposals that the speaker has insisted be a part of any unemployment extension.
Still, seven House Republicans signed a letter to Boehner encouraging him to take up the unemployment insurance extension last week. The Republicans include: Reps. Peter King, Chris Gibson and Michael Grimm, all of New York; Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan and Christopher Smith, all of New Jersey; and Joe Heck of Nevada.
House passes Ryan budget
By a vote of 219 to 205, the House passed the Ryan Budget this week. The Ryan budget, while non-binding, proposes to balance the federal ledger in 10 years and recommends massive changes in entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.
Twelve Republicans voted against the measure - most of the 12 were conservative Republicans who believed the budget didn't go far enough. Not a single Democrat voted for the budget proposal.
Many House moderates were concerned that a vote on a controversial budget like this in an election year could be politically dangerous. In the end, however, only two moderates - Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) - voted against the measure.
While the Ryan budget is sure to be hotly debated in the mid-terms, the budget itself will go no further - the Senate has no plans to take up the measure.
Click here to view the Washington Business Brief video, Pre-April Recess Odds and Ends.
Patent reform legislation stalls in Senate
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced it would delay its planned consideration of a patent-litigation bill —the third such delay in two weeks.
And as the delays extend, the bipartisan coalition behind patent reform appears to be cracking. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Judiciary panel, accused committee Republicans of failing to provide "constructive feedback" on a proposed compromise measure from Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
Sen. John Cornyn—a Texas Republican at the forefront of his party's pro-patent-reform bloc—shot back, saying that negotiations have "developed into a fight between Senate Democrats."
Dividing the two parties is a "fee-shifting" provision that would require the loser to pay the winner's legal fees in a patent-infringement case where the lawsuit is deemed to lack merit. Supporters say the measure is crucial to reducing abusive patent trolling—when companies buy cheap patents and profit from them by threatening infringement suits against others in hopes of settling.
But Schumer's proposal lacked the fee-shifting teeth Republicans want, sources say. And it's unclear how—or if—a consensus can be forged.
The House quickly passed patent reform late last year, as Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte quickly muscled his Innovation Act through committee before earning a sweeping bipartisan victory when it came up for a vote on the House floor.
Transportation in focus
Taxis vs Uber: If you can’t beat them, join them
Traditional taxi cabs are facing serious competition for riders from tech-driven alternatives like Uber. Some city tax commissions have tried regulating the competition out of existence – unsuccessfully – but in the nation’s capital it appears regulators are trying the “if you can’t beat them, then join them approach.”
D.C. regulators are preparing to unveil new proposed rules that would allow D.C. taxi cab companies to charge rates independent of the metered rate (currently $3.25 base/ $2.16 per mile) for rides booked online or ordered digitally via a smartphone. This new flexibility would allow traditional taxi cab companies to match the fares being offered by their tech-driven competitors. The new rules, however, will not apply to rides hailed on the street.
Markey introduces infrastructure bond bill
Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the Bolstering Our Nation’s Deficient Structures (BONDS) Act this week. The bill would revive the Build America Bonds program, which was originally authorized as part of the 2009 stimulus bill. From April 2009 to the end of 2010 the program issued 2,275 separate bonds that supported more than $181 billion of financing for new public capital infrastructure projects.
The program allowed state and local governments to borrow money at a lower cost than the typical bond market thanks to a federal subsidy provided to help pay the interest on the bond.
Sen. Markey’s bill serves as a companion to Congressman Richard Neal’s (D-MA) Build America Bonds bill in the House.
Georgia: Michelle Nunn (D-GA) announced this week if elected she would support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Florida: Republican Gov. Rick Scott 42, Democrat Charlie Crist 49, not sure 10
Pennsylvania: Republican Gov. Tom Corbett 34, generic Democrat 56, not sure 10
Georgia: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal 42, Democrat Jason Carter 43, not sure 15
Kansas: Republican Gov. Sam Brownback 41, Democrat Paul Davis 45, not sure 14
The House and Senate are not in session
Washington by the numbers
44,644 - Number of American women more than 100-years-old, compared with slightly more than 10,000 men.
They said what?
"I'm not going to make a decision for a while, because I'm actually enjoying my life. I'm actually having fun." -- Hillary Clinton, on running for president in 2016 (National Journal)
"Hillary Clinton yesterday made some very strong remarks about the media. She said that the media treat powerful women with a double standard. Or as it got reported in most places, 'Hillary Clinton shows off sassy new haircut.'" –Jimmy Fallon
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