Clinton, Dems embrace Arquette's equal pay pitch

Patricia Arquette's comments in favor of equal pay have galvanized Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Washington (CNN)Democrats eager to discuss equal pay for women have created a new opportunity to do it: The Patricia Arquette boomlet.

The movie star created a stir during her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award acceptance speech at Sunday night's Oscars, when she said: "To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America."
The comment was a hit in the moment, with Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez effusing their support.
Now, likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and other Democrats are using those comments as a way to raise an issue that's been central to their party's economic message in recent years.
    "I think we all cheered at Patricia Arquette's speech at the Oscars -- because she's right," Clinton told an audience of women working in Silicon Valley's technology industry in California on Tuesday.
    Other Democrats praised Arquette's comments, too. Among them were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Perez, the Labor secretary, and Valerie Jarrett, one of President Barack Obama's top White House aides.
    Democrats have pushed a bill intended to close the pay gap between men and women by offering new legal protections to women who complain that they're being underpaid relative to their male peers, and by having the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission collect gender and racial pay data.
    The bill failed to clear the 60-vote procedural threshold in the Senate last year -- and it's all but certain not to advance now that Republicans control both the House and the Senate, leaving Democrats to raise the issue on the presidential campaign trail instead.
    Republicans argue there are already enough protections on the books to ensure women have the right to equal wages.
    Clinton's comments come as The New York Times reports she plans to make her gender -- and potential to break the "glass ceiling" and become America's first female president -- a central theme in her widely expected 2016 campaign.
    During her speech Tuesday, Clinton recalled being pregnant while working in an Arkansas law firm that had no maternity leave policy. She also called the tech industry the "wild west," and said it needs to be more welcoming to women.
    "As women, let's do more to help all women lead on and succeed," she said.
    "You don't have to run for office," Clinton said. "Although if you do, more power to you."