Clinton Goes After Walker, Rubio, Paul on Equal Pay

The Democratic frontrunner won’t name them, but she is targeting Republicans who are polling decently against her.

Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Rancho High School on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
National Journal
Emily Schultheis
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Emily Schultheis
May 27, 2015, 11:54 a.m.

She may not have said their names, but Hillary Clinton on Wednesday singled out Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul—three of the Republicans polling well against her—for their comments about equal pay.

In a speech to the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council, Clinton outlined her position on equal pay in what her campaign says is the first piece of her women’s agenda. During the speech, she cited three Republicans, not by name but with direct quotes that make it clear who she’s targeting.

“Now, we could fix this if Republicans would get on board. We in fact could fix this today—but they won’t,” she said. “In fact, one Republican candidate for president dismissed equal pay as a ‘bogus issue.’ Another said Congress was ‘wasting time’ worrying about it. One even said that efforts to guarantee fair pay reminded him of the Soviet Union.”

“And to that I say, what century are they living in?” Clinton quipped.

That first quote came from Scott Walker, who in 2012, when asked about his decision to sign a bill repealing equal pay legislation in Wisconsin, said “it’s a bogus issue.” (Full context makes it clear Walker was saying something quite different: “It’s a bogus issue. It is against the law to discriminate against women for employment and to pay them less than you pay men, and it will continue to be.”)

The second came from Marco Rubio, who said in a 2014 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that discussion in Congress about the Paycheck Fairness Act was “wasting time.” (Again, context helps him out a bit: “I understand the political benefit of highlighting that and why they’re doing it, but it isn’t going to solve the core of the problem. And I just think we’re wasting time. Meanwhile, an entire generation of young women is caught in low-paying jobs with no way to emerge from that into a better-paying job.”)

And the third is from Rand Paul, who in 2012 reportedly compared equal pay to the Soviet Politburo. “In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread, and they either had no bread or too much bread. So setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea,” Paul said, per The Huffington Post.

Conveniently, all three of those quotes show up in a Democratic National Committee fact sheet about Republicans and equal pay, titled “GOP 2016ers ‘bogus’ ‘senseless’ Equal Pay Views.”

Clinton also made an implicit reference to some of her potential GOP opponents last month in New Hampshire. There, she called out people who want to “privatize Social Security or undermine it in some way”—which Jeb Bush and Chris Christie had done just days before.

It may not be general-election season yet, and Clinton’s team has repeatedly said it’s focused on the Democratic primary. But she’s clearly looking ahead, finding ways to needle her potential opponents, particularly the ones who appear to be polling decently well against her in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.

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