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Republicans Kill Fair Pay Bill

Mitch McConnell and company managed to torpedo a bill that would have undone the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision last year in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, which held that workers can't sue for ongoing pay discrimination if the statute of limitations has passed since their first discriminatory paycheck (even if, as in most cases, workers don't know at the time that they're being discriminated against). This demonstrates a rather breathtaking lack of empathy on the part of Senate Republicans, even by their usual standards: They're defending on the merits a situation in which if your company continually docks your pay because you're a woman, and you don't find out about it for several years, you can't sue to get your lost wages back. God knows the Democratic Party has lots of problems, but it's nice to see that every single Democrat voted for the bill (with the exception of Harry Reid, who voted against it for procedural reasons once it became clear it would come up short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture).

There are a couple further points to note. One, it's funny what an election will do to you: Of the six Republicans who voted for cloture, four (Coleman, Collins, Smith, and Sununu) are facing tough re-election fights. The one Republican in a tight race who voted against cloture was Ted Stevens--a gutsy move on his part, I suppose. Two, just to illustrate how close Democrats are to getting an effectively filibuster-proof majority, the bill needed three more votes (plus Reid) to get 60, and "no" votes Allard, Domenici, and Warner might soon be replaced by Udall, Udall, and...well, Warner. Three, though he missed the vote, John McCain is proudly strutting his anti–pay equality stance.

Four, McConnell had a pretty dumb quote in the New York Times: "We think that this bill is primarily designed to create a massive amount of new litigation in our country." "Massive" is up for debate, but of course it's designed to facilitate litigation--commonsensically reasonable litigation! To argue against the bill you have to actually make a case for why the lawsuits it authorizes are frivolous. That case is so weak that the Washington Post editorial page--that bastion of anti-corporate populism--describes it as "utterly without merit".

Finally, this seems to me like a pretty clear abuse of the filibuster. As I've said before, I agree with George Will that the filibuster appropriately allows for intense minorities to block major legislation, but the key word is intense. Republicans: You not only oppose this bill, but oppose it with such conviction, and view its defeat as such a critical priority, that it merits a cloture vote? Really? I can understand filibustering, say, immigration reform or or universal health care, but this?

--Josh Patashnik