As political dares go, this one could hardly have been more blatant. “[Republicans] say they didn’t launch a war on women,” Sen. Barbara Boxer said Wednesday, “so we’re giving them a chance to walk this back.” She added, “Personally I say it’s a war on women, and the more they protest it the more I say it.” And Sen. Barbara Mikulski channeled ”Network” (or maybe old-school feminist rage): “We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore.” Even Harry Reid got in on the action, saying on the floor yesterday, “Republicans deny they’re waging a war on women, yet they’ve launched a series of attacks on women’s access to healthcare and contraception this year. Now they have an opportunity to back up their excuses with action.”
What spurred such rage? Nothing so incendiary as transvaginal ultrasounds or birth control — just the Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the Democratic House in 2009 but fell to a filibuster by two votes in the Senate in 2010. It modifies the 1963 Equal Pay Act, strengthening enforcement and creating better mechanisms for wage transparency, and authorizes new research on the pay gap and a grant program to teach negotiation skills to women and girls. And while it probably doesn’t have a prayer in the House — if it can even pass this Senate — it manages to bring feminist-friendly legislation back on the table while doubling as a political tool to force Republicans into an uncomfortable corner.