During the presidential debate Tuesday night, an undecided voter asked Mitt Romney what he would do to ensure that women were paid the same as men when they performed the same task. His answer was a long-winded, evasive word salad. The short answer was “nothing.”
In contrast, Pres. Obama’s position is clear. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which made it illegal to pay women less for doing the same jobs as men, among other things. Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, like all but seven of his Republican House colleagues, voted against the equal-pay bill.
After the debate, Romney’s clean-up crew took the field, and the sort of clown-car antics we have seen almost daily from Team Romney ensued:
Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told the Huffington Post after the debate that Romney opposed the passage of the bill, but would not repeal it.
A day later, he said something completely different to TPM.
“I was wrong when I said last night Governor Romney opposed the Lily Ledbetter act,” Gillespie said in a statement. “He never weighed in on it. As President, he would not seek to repeal it.”
Former Massachusetts lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, told TPM Tuesday night after the debate that she didn’t want to get into detail on Romney’s position because he’s “not going to have his campaign defined by what the Obama campaign wants to talk about.”
“Saying ‘will you sign this, would you support that,’ this is just a campaign tactic,” she said.
But this wigginess on women’s pay is not new for the Romney campaign. As Pres. Obama noted during the debate, “I just want to point out that when Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said, I’ll get back to you.”
Transcript of Romney’s answer on how he would ensure pay equity for women:
ROMNEY: Thank you. And — important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the — the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are — are all men?
They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?
And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for — making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women. In the — in the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 3 1/2 million women more now in poverty than four years ago.
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a — a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that — that they would otherwise not be able to — to afford.
This is what I’ve done, it’s what I look forward to doing, and I know what it takes to make an economy work.
And I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that — that — that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy. An economy with — with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can’t find a job, or a college-level job — that’s not what we have to have.
CROWLEY: Governor –
ROMNEY: I’m going to help women in America get — get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.