Senator Edward Kennedy returned to the Senate to cast a key vote to break a Republican filibuster of a vital Medicare bill on Wednesday. This was Kennedy’s first appearance in Congress since being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor two months ago. His return was greeted by a standing ovation by both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate floor.
The bill, which already passed in the House, would reverse a dramatic cut (10.6%) in Medicare payments to doctors that was scheduled to go into effect in July. The bill had been filibustered by Republicans in the Senate and narrowly failed to reach the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster in June. After Kennedy’s vote breaking the filibuster, nine republicans switched their votes, giving the measure a veto-proof 69 votes.
Republican filibusters are holding up several other bills, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 . If passed, this bill would correct the US Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Rubber Co., Inc.. This decision virtually eliminated an employee’s legal recourse against wage discrimination after the statute of limitations has ended, even if the discrimination is ongoing.
Kennedy, who is the Chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has been leading the drive on the Ledbetter bill before he became ill. The Senate has promised to bring up another vote on the bill and women’s and civil rights groups are determined to break the filibuster.