To start with I will look at the political ammunition that was created for the Democrats (notice that this is not about Liberal or Conservative, this is about politics as a zero sum game):
My friend Meagan asked me if this was true. Here was my response:
Short answer: Yes. (Every single Senate Republican)
Long Answer: No, the bill wouldn't have mandated equal pay, but it would have increased transparency and allowed people who felt that they were being discriminated against to sue.
So, yes, kinda.
Except it never would have passed the R dominated house in any case, so the bill was a political maneuver not a good faith attempt to pass a law. The Senate could have still passed the bill, but they would have had to tolerate a filibuster. Of course a filibuster is just someone talking for as long as they can so that people will get bored and leave. I guess the Senate Democrats didn't feel strongly enough about it to sit through some endless prattling by some Republican when the bill wouldn't have passed the house anyway. But it is a good bet that Republicans would have filibustered even though the bill wouldn't have passed because they would have been able to make political hay. So it may have been a tactical move on the part of the Democrats. The possibility of it being a tactical move is further supported by Harry Reid switching his vote to "No" so that the Democrats can bring the bill up for vote again. The bill will probably be back, but it probably still won't pass.
This kind of legislation is brought up to prove how bad the other side is. The Democrats have the majority in the Senate, but not in the House. Because it can be safely assumed that the Republican House would not have passed this legislation, it is hard to see the raising of this legislation as an honest attempt to pass a law.
The Democratic party has a majority in the Senate. If they wanted to they could force the issue. All they have to do is wait. A filibuster simply prolongs debate, but if the majority refuses to add anything else to the agenda then a vote will happen. That is how the Civil Rights Act passed. A filibuster is a way to waste time and make a vote a pain in the ass. If Senators are willing to tolerate the annoyance it is not an insurmountable obstacle.
The Democrats knew the Republicans could force a filibuster. They brought up the bill, and Republicans threatened a filibuster, so the Democrats backed off. But why would the Republican senators even filibuster? The bill would not have passed the House. The bill never had a chance, but the Republicans would have wasted time grandstanding anyway.
I would argue that the Democrats backed off because they didn't want to give the Republicans an opportunity to engage in grandstanding, plus the Democrats got what they wanted just by having the Republicans oppose the bill. The Democrats got the opportunity to make claims like the one in the meme above. This kind of claim is powerful. It "proves" that Republicans hate women (though a glance at my Facebook wall indicates that there are a lot of Republican/Conservative women out there) without having to risk actually passing legislation.
But what is most important about this legislation is the way it was taken back by the Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) voted against the bill. Remember, if the Democrats really thought this bill had a chance they could have pushed it. But they didn't, because they knew it wasn't going anywhere. By having Harry Reid vote against the bill though they put themselves in a position where they can bring the bill back up any time they want.
Democrats have established that the Republicans are going to oppose the bill, and have opposed the bill. I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing this debate again, but much more dramatically as the elections approach. the first time around was laying the groundwork. Much more fiery rhetoric can be used at a more politically advantageous time, no reason to waste a lot of political acrimony during the early part of the year.
This is about winning, not good governance. For both sides. Lets be clear here, I don't want to paint the Republicans as good guys or honest in any way. Both sides are fighting to beat the other side. Defeating the opponent is more important than helping the country. Democrats raise bills just to fire up the base, and then the Republicans threaten meaningless unnecessary filibusters on bills that aren't going to make it into law anyway. And by engaging in these sorts of tactics both sides further entrench the partisan divisions in our society.
(Coming soon: Equal Pay Part III: But that is going to require quite a bit of research on my part. My first entry on the topic showed me just how much more there is for me to know about the topic. Also, Purple America: Red States and Blue States are a Lie. Don't believe me? It's true.)