05/11/2014 11:46 am ET Updated Jul 11, 2014

On Mother's Day, Giving Women What They Really Deserve

This Mother's Day, as we celebrate the women who sacrifice so much to support their families and give their kids a chance to live the American dream, we must demand that our leaders step up to the plate and do their part to lift up America's mothers -- and all the women who are increasingly the engine of our economy. We know that when women succeed, America succeeds. To support middle class families, create good jobs and grow our economy, we need to ensure women have the tools they need to succeed, and end the outdated roadblocks and discrimination that stand in their way.

We must start with ensuring equal pay for equal work, and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. It is unconscionable that in the year 2014 women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, which amounts to a gap of $11,084 a year for full-time workers. The problem is even more acute for women of color: African American women earn only 64 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic women earn just 55 cents.

Eliminating pay discrimination should be a no-brainer -- it will put more money in the pockets of middle-class families, help grow our economy, and it's the right thing to do. Unfortunately, this Republican Congress remains stuck in the Mad Men era, and has repeatedly blocked equal pay legislation.

Equal pay is where we can start to ensure women have an equal shot in our economy, but it cannot be where we end. There is so much we can and must do to build an economy that supports women and their families, including ensuring quality, affordable childcare and paid leave for new mothers. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee maternity leave for new moms, and more than 13 million working women are not able to take a paid sick day when their kids get sick.

Partisan finger-pointing will not solve these problems -- it will not help a new mother afford maternity leave, it will not put food on the table for mothers working two jobs to make ends meet, and it will not help a single mom take a day off to care for a sick child. But unfortunately finger-pointing and excuses are all we have heard from House Republicans. Some even contend pay discrimination is a thing of the past. Tell that to a woman in my district in Port Washington, NY.

This is not about giving women special treatment -- it's about giving them a fair shot. And with more and more households now headed by women, that fair shot is more important than ever to our kids, and our country. That is what is at stake this fall, when America's moms will have a chance to say enough is enough, and hold accountable a Republican Congress that has proved time and again that it is not on the side of women.

From refusing to consider equal pay legislation to opposing the Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans have thumbed their nose at women at every turn. But it's not only these overt women's issues that show where their true priorities lie -- it is their budget that stacks that the deck for special interests while raising taxes on the middle class, their refusal to raise the minimum wage, and their obsession with repealing health care reform and sending us back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to deny women care.

These priorities all affect women and their families, and they all expose House Republicans' true agenda: heaping goodies on special interests, at the expense of middle-class families and the women who support them. Women will decide this November's elections, and the question they will ask is who is on their side? From equal pay to health care, the answer is clear: House Democrats are working to enact an economic agenda to lift up women, while House Republicans work to undermine them.