Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) suggested that his female colleague, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), did not understand a piece of legislation on the gender pay gap that she co-sponsored, or his proposed amendment to it.
The bill, known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, aims to eliminate gender-based pay inequality by altering the language in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Byrne’s amendment, which eventually failed on a voice vote, would have altered specific language in the bill and removed a portion of it.
“Mr. Chairman, I have great respect for the lady,” Byrne said while defending his amendment. “I don’t think [Byrne] understands what that language actually means and how it’s been interpreted by the courts and how it may be totally misinterpreted against plaintiffs in these types of lawsuits.”
“I do think that she misunderstands both the amendment and the underlying bill,” he later added.
Wild read a part of the bill that would have been affected by the amendment out loud during the debate, which can be viewed in the video above.
In a statement to HuffPost, she said Byrne’s amendment was a “clear attempt” to undermine the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is meant to stop employers from paying women less than men for the same job.
“As a practicing attorney for over 30 years, I can tell you this was not the first time someone has attempted to avoid an argument over the merits of the law using condescension and dismissal,” Wild said.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal group, denounced Byrne for dismissing and “mansplaining” equal pay to his colleague.
“And people wonder why the pay gap still exists,” the group tweeted.
A spokesman for Byrne did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The debate specifically targeted a portion of the Paycheck Fairness Act that provides several exemptions to the legislation, including when the difference in payment is based on “any other factor other than sex.” Byrne’s amendment would have replaced that phrase with “a bona fide business-related reason other than sex,” and eliminated a paragraph in the bill that provided a four-part definition of that phrase.
Byrne argued that his amendment, which removed details from the bill, would clarify that specific exception and would prevent the bill from being misinterpreted in lawsuits.
“Let’s have a confusing bill. I’m trying to get the clarity into the bill that actually helps women,” he said. “It’s the irony of the whole proceeding that the bill that’s supposed to help women … hurts them. I’m trying to help women with my amendment.”
Wild said Byrne’s amendment does the opposite of clarifying the text and would hurt the overall bill.
“This amendment eliminated clarity,” she said. “It simply replaces it with the word ‘bona fide’ with no additional definition or guidance thereby that this defense will continue to be misunderstood, misused and incorrectly applied by the courts.”