Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ledbetter Update: Test Vote Fails But More Votes to Come

So, once again, the Senate is the place where all good bills go to die -- for now. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act faced a tough cloture vote tonight, which fell just shy of the needed 60 votes to move on to final passage. The final vote was 56-42. All the Democrats stayed in line, which needless to say is a pleasant change of pace.

Some Republicans also saw the light: the enlightened included the two original co-sponsors, Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME) and Arlen Specter (PA), as well as a few folks in tough re-election races -- Susan Collins (ME), Gordon Smith (OR), Norm Coleman (MN) and the biggest surprise of the night, John Sununu (NH). These senators received the full court press from both advocates back home as well as DC-based lobbyists, and it paid off.

Of course, the business interests pushed just as hard, and were able to get enough Republicans to toe the line to block the measure. Aside from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), only one other senator didn't bother to vote at all: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was apparently in the bathroom -- or somehow otherwise occupied -- when the critical civil rights bill came to the floor.

Both Democratic presidential candidates came to town for the vote, and spoke on the floor -- in fact, the vote was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday in order to get them back to DC and improve the chances for passage. Both Clinton and Obama also had photo ops with Lilly Ledbetter herself (above), who spent the evening in the Senate gallery and the Senate reception area, pigeon-holing senators as they walked in to vote. Trust me, it's hard to look this woman in the eye, hear her story, and not be moved.

McCain did not bother to come back to town for the vote, though his front desk staff was helpful enough to tell constituent callers that A) not only would he not be present for the vote, but B) he would not vote for it even if he was. Gee, thanks, Maverick. Reporters asked McCain about the legislation on the campaign trail, and AP wrote stories with headlines like "McCain Opposes Equal Pay Bill in the Senate" and "Senate Republicans Kill Pay Disparity Bill." This coverage is good for Big Blue, especially since recent polls show women -- especially young women -- really care about pay equity this election season. With the economy tanking and gas prices soaring, it's no wonder fair wages are on women's minds.

It should be noted that the pure vote on the cloture motion was 57-41, but in a procedural move Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote to "no." This allows him to bring up the vote again at a later date. And Reid, as well as lead sponsor Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and women's and civil rights advocates, have vowed that they will bring this vote up again.

It's not over. The pay equity issue is too important, and the Supreme Court's decision in the Ledbetter case was just too damn dumb to let stand. And, oh yeah, it's an election year -- so this issue is another good way to hold elected officials' feet to the fire come November. No doubt that the Ledbetter vote will be showing up in a lot of congressional voting records very soon -- on both the right and left.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

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