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In defeat of Paycheck Fairness Act, Senate goes into deep campaign mode

Senate activity surrounding the Paycheck Fairness Act – it failed to get enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster – more closely resembled the taping of campaign ads rather than a debate of the issue.

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That reticence was on display among the Senate GOP caucus on Tuesday. On the right, only a single Republican – Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada – came to the Senate floor to debate the bill. Indeed, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took the unusual tack of declining to fire back at his counterpart Reid's pointed criticisms during McConnell's opening remarks both Monday and Tuesday.

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David Grant is a content strategist and former Monitor writer who covered Congress in Washington, D.C. A Virginia Tech graduate, he's also passionate about the Hokies, the Middle East and basketball.

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When the Senate's Republican leadership did speak up for their weekly press conference, it was as if the Paycheck Fairness vote was happening in another reality. Instead, Republicans stayed glued to their myriad critiques of Mr. Obama – instead of arguing Paycheck Fairness, they were deep into their “Greatest Gripes with the Obama administration:”

• McConnell hit the President for a lack of leadership on student loans.

Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona clocked Democrats for what he said was an inability to put forward proposals to head off spending cuts slated to hit on Jan. 1.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota mocked the Obama administration's handling of the economy, including a 2010 op-ed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner welcoming America to a "recovery summer."

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming criticized Obama's healthcare reform law for increasing rates on health insurance plans offered by colleges and universities.

• Finally, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas pointed to new allegations of trouble in the gunwalking scandal along the Mexican border known as "Fast and Furious."

Asked why Republicans opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, McConnell offered a terse response.

"This is issue is about rewarding plaintiffs lawyers for filing lawsuits," McConnell said. The Democrats’ “view is America suffers from not enough litigation."

What's next for the legislation? For reasons of procedural arcana, Reid voted against the measure in order to be able to resurrect it at a later date if need be.

But principally, Tuesday's vote will be pressed into service by Democrats as a campaign weapon.

"I'm putting my lipstick on – and I'm combat ready," Ms. Mikulski said, swiping a red rouge across her lower lip at a press conference after the vote.

Later, she added: "We're not exactly sure where the battlefield will be, but the fight is going to continue."


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