On Equal Pay Day, Udall and Gardner wrangle on women’s issues

DENVER — Following the lead of President Obama, who pressured congressional Republicans to do more to help women gain equal footing in the workforce, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign looked to soften up its opponent, Congressman Cory Gardner, on Equal Pay Day.

The nationwide campaign for equal pay comes on the day when women, on average, catch up to men — when they finally make the same amount of money that men made in the last calendar year.

Starting with an early morning press call and continuing all day on Twitter, Udall’s campaign hit Gardner, R-Yuma, for voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act back in 2009 and the Paycheck Fairness Act last year.

“Only Congressman Gardner knows why he opposes paycheck equality for Colorado women,” said state Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, on the press call organized by Udall’s campaign.

“Now, as a former flamenco dancer, I can appreciate clever footwork. But Congressman Gardner needs to quit dancing around the issue and tell Colorado women why he thinks they should earn less money for doing the same work.

On Twitter, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pushed a hashtag #GOPpaygap, trying to blame Republicans for the fact that women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Republicans shot back that Udall doesn’t practice what he preaches, alleging that the senator pays his female staffers less than males.

“If you apply the Democrats’ misleading math to their own staffs, the White House pays women 88 cents for every dollar a man makes, while Mark Udall pays women on his Senate staff just 85 cents on the dollar,” said the NRC’s Michael Short.

“So will Udall immediately condemn himself for being a part of the problem, or will he admit Democrats are just trying to play politics with Colorado women?”

The conservative blog, Colorado Peak Politics, also crunched the numbers and concluded that Gardner actually pays his female staffers $1.04 for every dollar earned by male staffers — a 25 percent higher rate than Udall apparently pays.

Udall is a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which faces another Senate vote on Wednesday.

“Colorado women should be empowered to determine and build the lives they aspire to — both at home and in the workplace,” Udall said in a statement issued by his campaign. “It is simply unacceptable for businesses to pay women less than men doing the same work.

“I am a proud cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act because equal pay isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s an economic issue that affects families across Colorado.”

On a separate issue, Gardner, looking to shore up his support with women voters, submitted written testimony to the House Armed Services Committee expressing his support for the inclusion of Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s language on sexual assault in the military in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

“Last year’s NDAA made reforms and improvements to the manner in which military sexual assault cases are handled within the military ranks,” Gardner wrote. “Commanders no longer have the authority to unilaterally overturn court martial decisions, although they maintain their role in the chain of command as sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

“While these reforms were significant, sexual assault in the military continues to be under intense scrutiny and Congress must act to further protect the victims of sexual assault.  I support measures which would remove from the military’s chain of command the decision to prosecute claims of sexual assault and other major military crimes.”