The Senate approved landmark worker rights legislation on Thursday that will make it easier for those who think they've endured pay discrimination to seek legal help. The vote was 61-36.Senators Levin and Stabenow voted yes, as did all the other female senators and Democrats (except for Kennedy and two vacant seats). Five Republicans supported the bill - Collins, Hutchison, Murkowski, Snowe, and Specter - and 35 Senate Republicans voted against it, including Alabama's two senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. Here's the roll call.
The House of Representatives approved a similar measure on January 9, three days after the 111th Congress convened. Because the Senate made modest changes in the House version, the House must pass it again. Once it does, as is assured, this will be one of the first bills that President Barack Obama signs into law.
(When the House voted earlier this month, Michigan Republicans Ehlers, Hoekstra, Camp, McCotter, Miller, Rogers and Upton voted no.)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts President Obama will sign the bill because "this administration stands for equality and fairness."
Those Republicans who voted against the bill aren't too concerned with fairness and equality.
"This bill is about effectively eliminating the statute of limitations on pay discrimination," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Job creators have enough to worry about these days. We shouldn't add the threat of never-ending lawsuits."Great. Not one ounce of concern for workers like Ledbetter who have been victims of discrimination. Mitch and other Republicans are clueless, or missing the point as Steve Benen puts it.
To hear opponents of the bill tell it, making it easier to challenge pay discrimination will lead to more lawsuits. That's almost certainly true. But therein lies the point -- if American workers are facing unjust wage discrimination, there should be more lawsuits. Those are worthwhile lawsuits, challenging an injustice. Ideally, employers would stop discriminating, as most already do, and in turn, there'd be fewer lawsuits.Challenging injustice. Ending discrimination. That's the kind of change Americans want. Haven't Republicans been paying attention?
(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)