Senate Republicans derailed a Democratic bill Wednesday curbing paycheck discrimination against women, an effort that even in defeat Democrats hoped would pay political dividends in this fall's congressional elections.
Wednesday's vote was 53-44 to halt GOP tactics aimed at derailing the legislation, but that fell six short of the 60 Democrats needed to prevail.
The outcome on the Senate floor was not a surprise, but Democrats were playing to a wider audience.
With public opinion polls showing Democratic voters less enthusiastic than Republicans this year, Democrats aimed the measure at women, who historically lean more toward their party than men. They were also casting the issue as a crucial one for the middle class because so many families rely on female wage-earners.
Wednesday's bill was the latest in a campaign-year parade of measures Democrats hope will drive sympathetic voters to the polls this November. Others include proposals to extend expired unemployment benefits, raise the minimum wage and make student loans more affordable.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., stood up after the vote and said supporters were disappointed but that they would fight on.
This is the third consecutive election year in which Senate Democrats have pushed the bill making it harder for employers to pay women less than men in comparable jobs — and easier for aggrieved workers to sue. Republicans have shot it down each time.
"For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don't seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Every voting Republican voted to block the bill. They were joined by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who normally sides with Democrats.
Reid switched his vote to "no" to give himself the procedural ability to quickly call up the measure for a future vote, which Democrats have pledged to do.