WASHINGTON — In a vote driven by mid-term election politics, the Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly agreed to take up a "Paycheck Fairness" bill that has no realistic chance of passing Congress this year.

WASHINGTON — In a vote driven by mid-term election politics, the Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly agreed to take up a "Paycheck Fairness" bill that has no realistic chance of passing Congress this year.


Although it was blocked five months ago, Senate Democrats pushed for reconsideration of the bill so that colleagues — including Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor — could highlight their support for an issue that could play well to female voters this November. Senate Republicans agreed to the debate to slow the legislative process so that other "messaging" bills cannot reach the floor.


The Senate voted 75-23 in favor of debate. Pryor voted in favor. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., opposed it. Republicans expect to block further action on the bill when a 60-vote majority is needed to move forward.


Sara Lasure, a spokeswoman for Boozman, said the senator supports equal pay and is willing to update workplace discrimination laws to make sure everyone is treated fairly. However, he does not support this particular bill.


"This bill opens the door to frivolous lawsuits and fatter wallets for trial lawyers. It was defeated five months ago, but (Majority Leader) Harry Reid is bringing it to the floor again for members of his caucus who are in political trouble," Lasure said.


The Pryor campaign held a press call hours before the vote to highlight Pryor’s support for the Equal Pay bill in contrast to his Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle. Former Little Rock Mayor Lottie Shackelford and former state Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher said that their "Women for Pryor" campaign would be knocking on doors across Arkansas to ask women to re-elect Pryor.


"If women really take a look they can see the absolute contrast between Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton. It’s important we send Mark Pryor back to the Senate so he can fight for Arkansas women," Shackelford said.


Pryor said he favored the Equal Pay Act as a matter of fairness, noting that women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.


"Pay inequality is not just a women’s issue. It is unfair to families and not good for the economy," Pryor said. "My opponent, he has voted against it. I don’t think it is right. I’ve voted for it before and I’ll vote for it again."


David Ray, a spokesman for the Cotton campaign, said the Pryor campaign was misrepresenting Cotton’s position on pay equity to distract from their own record of supporting economic policies that have harmed women.


"Tom Cotton supports equal pay for equal work. When employers break the law, they should be subject to stiff criminal penalties," Ray said. "Senator Pryor is pointing to a procedural gimmick vote in order to distract from the failed Obama-Pryor economic policies that are forcing millions of women, especially moms, to work longer hours or take second jobs just to make ends meet."