WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama pledged on Saturday to continue the fight to help women get fair wages, escape poverty and compete in academic areas with higher earning potential such as math and engineering.
"At a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet — and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss — it's a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn't just a women's issue," the president said in his weekly radio and online address. "It's a family issue."
Efforts are still continuing to address problems highlighted by a commission led by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt almost 50 years ago that looked at the status of women and the unfairness they face.
Obama noted that one of his first acts as president was to sign a law allowing women who've been discriminated against in their salaries to have their day in court. Obama said he was disappointed when a bill to give women more power to stop pay disparities — the Paycheck Fairness Act — was blocked in the Senate.
"And that's why I'm going to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill," he said.
Senate Republicans succeeded in blocking the measure designed to reduce wage disparities between men and women. The effort to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act fell just short of the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP opposition. Republicans and business groups said the bill would expose employers to more litigation by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damage awards.
The bill was one of the first measures passed by the House last year after Obama was elected.
"Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn't just important to me as president," Obama said. "It's something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve."
In the Republican radio address, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska addressed rising energy costs.
International events like the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa affect those costs, she said, but "our own shortsightedness and restrictions have played a role."
She urged greater U.S. oil production, saying the way should be cleared for more pursuit of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico and the Rocky Mountain West. She said her home state of Alaska has estimated resources in excess of 65 years' worth of Persian Gulf imports.
Republicans also support energy alternatives that would lower oil consumption, Murkowski said.