Joe Manchin’s bill demanding equal pay for women’s soccer could be blocked by filibuster

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a staunch defender of the filibuster and advocate for bipartisanship, could soon see his bill demanding equal pay for women’s soccer players blocked by Republicans under the Senate rule he insists on preserving.

Manchin and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced the Give Our Athletes Level Salaries (GOALS) Act to the Senate Wednesday. Manchin proposed a similar bill in 2019. The GOALS Act was co-sponsored by 11 other Democratic senators. Since no GOP senators have expressed support for the bill, it appears unlikely to reach the 60-vote threshold required to avoid a filibuster.

The bill would block federal funding for the men’s 2026 World Cup—set to be jointly hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada—unless the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) is given equal pay to the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT).

While introducing the bill on Wednesday, the Democrat congressman said that he was “disappointed” Senate Republicans were “unable to come together” and instead used the filibuster to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, another bill intended to combat gender-based pay discrimination, on the previous night.

Sen. Joe Manchin could soon see one of his own bills blocked by a GOP filibuster after introducing the GOALS Act without the support of any Republicans on Wednesday. Manchin is pictured during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. on June 9, 2021.
Susan Walsh/Getty

“While we were unable to pass the much-needed legislation last night, today I’m introducing the GOALS Act with my Senate colleagues to ensure that, our phenomenal U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team are paid equitably compared to their male counterparts in order to receive any federal funds for the 2026 World Cup,” Manchin said in a statement.

“The first vote I took as a Senator was to support paycheck fairness, and to this day, I am proud to lead the fight for equal pay across all workplaces, including the soccer field,” he added. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this commonsense bill to ensure a level playing field for everyone, including our top-notch U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.”

The USWNT, the most successful team in the history of women’s international soccer, has been fighting for equal pay with their less-lauded male counterparts for many years. The USWNT earns up to 89 percent less than the USMNT while playing the same number of games, while bonuses for World Cup games pay the men more to lose than the women get for wins, according to a 2019 article from The Washington Post.

Attempts to achieve soccer pay parity using the courts have been unsuccessful, with a 2019 discrimination lawsuit from 28 USWNT players being dismissed by a federal judge in May 2020, although the players have appealed the decision. The GOALS Act was initially introduced to the House by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in 2019. Manchin championed the Senate version.

After it failed to advance in 2019, Matsui and DeLauro reintroduced the bill to the House in March of this year. Although the federal government will not directly fund the 2026 World Cup, the GOALS Act would block funds going to host cities or local organizations facilitating the tournament unless the U.S. Soccer Federation agrees to pay the USMNT and USWNT equally.

Since Manchin has steadfastly refused to eliminate or weaken the filibuster under any circumstances, the GOALS Act has virtually no chance of becoming law without the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate. Based on Wednesday’s blocking of the Paycheck Fairness Act, expectations that bipartisanship will win out on equal pay for the country’s soccer players only may be far-fetched.

Newsweek reached out to Manchin’s office for comment.

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