Congressman counters that law was redundant

 By Christopher Cadelago

 February 21, 2012

Democrats running to unseat Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray again seized on his voting record Thursday in an attempt to draw him into the national debate over women’s issues.

Port Commissioner Scott Peters and former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña highlighted Bilbray’s opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law three years ago by President Barack Obama to make it easier for women to challenge unequal pay.

Bilbray said through a spokesman that he supports equal pay for equal work; stressing employees previously had protections to bring a suit against their employers for pay discrimination.

“This law does nothing to promote pay equality, just more lawsuits,” spokesman Fred Tayco said.

Peters, who earlier assailed the seven-term congressman for voting to defund Planned Parenthood, leveled his latest criticism one day after aides for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney balked at a question about his position on the Fair Pay Act.

The campaign later confirmed Romney supports pay equality and wasn’t looking to change current law. Still, Democrats sent a flurry of news releases citing Ledbetter’s shock and disappointment.

On Thursday, Peters urged voters to compare Bilbray’s history on women’s issues with his own, including supporting abortion rights and along with his wife contributing to Planned Parenthood.

“Brian Bilbray doesn’t support equal pay for women who do equal work, and yesterday, Mitt Romney would not pledge to support it either,” Peters said. “This is an amazing affront to women and equality. Let’s hope Mitt Romney is not going to be looking to Brian Bilbray for all his cues.”

The Fair Pay Act was named for the Alabama woman who complained that she was paid less than men after working as a supervisor at a tire factory for 19 years. Congress approved the legislation to relax the statue of limitations following a Supreme Court ruling against Ledbetter.

Critics of the measure contended that it would provoke lawsuits and lead workers to delay filing legal action with the aim of receiving a bigger payout.

Democrats are increasingly seeing gender-gap politics as their ticket to regaining control of the House and re-electing Obama.

Women prefer the president to Romney by 19 percentage points, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll this week. Other recent polls have the president leading in key swing states largely due to the support of women and independent voters.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, attributed the movement to Republican budget proposals that would cut funding for health care and contraceptives.

Saldaña said Bilbray's vote against the Fair Pay Act demonstrates why women are increasingly losing confidence in the Republican-led Congress. “This part of an ongoing pattern by the Republicans to legislate against the interests and needs of women and families,” she said.

Republican candidates have launched a counterattack meant to show how Democrats’ policies have disproportionately harmed women.

The national dialogue turned sharply away from Ledbetter after Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said late Wednesday on CNN that Ann Romney — often referred to as her husband’s chief adviser on women's issues — “never worked a day in her life.”

Rosen apologized for the verbal jab.