WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday, with the chamber falling two votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and proceed to a vote on the measure that would help combat wage discrimination on the basis of gender.

Not a single member of the GOP broke rank. Observers closely watched the votes of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), all women senators who voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides basic protections against wage discrimination.

"Senate Republicans had their latest opportunity to do the right thing, work with Democrats to reduce wage inequality for women, and help the American families they support," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement after the vote. "This was a prime opportunity to enact the kind of common-sense, bipartisan solutions to our economic problems that the American people are demanding, but Republicans spurned it."

"Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to address our shared challenges, but compromise is a two-way street," he added. "I am hopeful that moving forward, Republicans put partisanship aside and focus on doing what's right and fair for the American people."

"Forty-five years after passage of the Equal Pay Act, it is unacceptable that women still earn, on average, 77 cents to the dollar earned by men," said National Women's Law Center Co-President Marcia Greenberger. "The law needs to be stronger. This persistent pay gap translates to more than $10,000 in lost wages per year for the average female worker. In this difficult economy, in which nearly 40 percent of mothers are primary breadwinners, women shoulder increased responsibility for supporting their families and cannot afford to have employers discounting their salaries."

Among other provisions, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already passed the House, would ensure that a law already on the books -- the Equal Pay Act of 1963 -- is properly enforced. It would also make sure that women aren't punished for seeking out information about what their male colleagues are earning in order to ensure they are being paid properly.

Opponents of the legislation, including Collins, have voiced concern that it would lead to "excessive litigation on to the small-business community." "This bill appears to go way beyond the Lilly Ledbetter Act and I am concerned what the impact would be," she said in September.

But in a Slate article, Center for American Progress senior economist Heather Boushey argued, "[I]t strains credulity to imagine that the law would have this attenuated effect. If businesses are worried about more litigation, maybe that's because women armed with knowledge about pay gaps would be more likely to bring suits that have merit to enforce the laws that already exist."

By: Amanda Terkel

*** Folks, May I present your Republican representatives hard at work for female American citizens. ***