Where the Election Candidates Stand on Equal Pay: A Cheat Sheet

candidates equal pay issue Where the Election Candidates Stand on Equal Pay: A Cheat Sheet

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Women earn about 79 cents for every dollar men make, and while the Obama government moved to address the pay inequality by pushing the Paycheck Fairness Act, it looks like America’s next president will be tasked with closing the gap—or not, depending on who you support. So while student loan debt, abortion access, and healthcare are all headline-grabbing issues leading up to the November election, how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton—the presumptive candidates for the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively—plan to address the wage gap is every bit as important. Below, a breakdown where each stands on the matter.

election hillary clinton

Hilary Clinton

“The failure to ensure equal pay for women also impacts families and the broader economy.”

What you need to know:

  • Clinton has been a longtime champion for equal pay, and introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2009, which was not enacted.
  • She cosponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which extended the amount of time a woman can file a lawsuit against their employer for wage discrimination.
  • She plans to introduce workplace policies like paid leave and more flexibility to support working parents.

What that means: 

If elected, Clinton would move to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act again, which aims to help women fight wage discrimination in the workplace. Clinton also has a strong track record—especially when compared with Trump—promoting wage inequality between the genders. However, simply becoming president won’t mean that Clinton’s vision for equal pay will come to fruition–in order to pass any legislation that closes the wage gap she would need to garner the same level of a majority that Obama had when the Comprehensive Health Care Act was passed. This means there must be a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.

Steve Taylor Ph.D. is an associate professor at the Department of Government at American University, and explained a similar lack of support killed the legislation in 2009 when it was originally introduced: “Her husband did not have such a majority during his first term in office, hence Bill and Hillary were unable to secure the passage of a comprehensive health care bill,” he said, adding that large, powerful companies are also likely to try and block any equal pay legislation. “The level of corporate opposition was quite substantial, which made it even more difficult to pass such a bill back in the 1990s. With the corporate opposition likely to be just as high against an equal pay act, the prospects for passage are dismal, no matter who is in office,” he said.

MORE: Where the Election Frontrunners Stand on Your Student Debt

donald trump Where the Election Candidates Stand on Equal Pay: A Cheat Sheet

Donald Trump

“You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.”

What you need to know:

  • Trump hasn’t released a detailed policy to address the wage gap.
  • Was sued by a former employee for wage discrimination.
  • Trump doesn’t appear to have a solid position on the issue of equal pay.

What that means:

Unlike Clinton, Trump doesn’t have any clear policy—or opinion, for that matter—when it comes to wage inequality. In August last year he said that men and women deserve “equal pay for equal work,” but then a couple of months later dismissed the idea of a gender pay gap, saying: “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job,” during a Manchester, N.H. event.

If Trump is elected, he’s likely to keep a Republican majority in both houses, which makes the idea of an equal pay bill like Clinton’s seem virtually impossible. Taylor explains that even if there isn’t a Republican majority, he will likely put a halt to the legislation regardless: “In the very unlikely event that he is elected and his party does not have a congressional majority, [Trump] will veto any equal pay act,” he said. “In such a scenario one cannot imagine that there will be enough votes to override his veto.”

It’s unlikely that Trump’s stance will change during the election. While Secretary Clinton can’t avoid addressing equal pay without losing the support of her voters, Trump can continue to ignore the issue. “If he avoids it, he does not lose any segment of his coalition,” Taylor explained. On the other hand, there’s no political payoff for him to support equal pay—even if he did support it (which is unlikely) he won’t peel away many supporters from Clinton’s base, who he’s already alienated throughout the campaign.