The Senate Republican leadership orchestrated a filibuster of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last night, preventing this critical bill from going to the floor of the senate for an up-or-down vote. The bill would have corrected the recent Supreme Court decision that guts the ability of women workers to sue for wage discrimination.
All of the Democrats and only six Republicans voted to stop the filibuster. The cloture vote to end the filibuster failed by three votes: 56 to 42 with two senators, Senators McCain and Hagel, not voting.
Majority leader Harry Reid (D. NV) led the fight to break the filibuster but in the end had to vote with the Republican presiding side so he could bring the bill up again. Senate Democrats have promised to keep trying to break the Republican filibuster. Senator Reid’s parliamentary move makes this possible.
Both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama came back from campaigning to speak for passage of the Fair Pay Act and to vote to end the filibuster. Meanwhile, Republican John McCain remained campaigning in Louisiana. According to the New York Times, McCain said to reporters that he “would have opposed the bill since it could contribute to frivolous lawsuits harmful to business.”
“Someone should tell McCain and the Senate Republican leadership that before the 2007 Supreme Court decision, this bill was the law of the land protecting women, people of color, older, and disabled workers from wage discrimination,” said Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority. “We are determined to pass the Lilly Ledbetter bill and to restore the Civil Rights act of 1964 from this orchestrated business attack.”
Leading the opposition to the bill was the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures.
Leading the fight for passage of the Fair Pay Act was Lilly Ledbetter herself, whose Supreme Court case led to the reversal of decades of precedent in wage discriminating cases. Women’s groups including the National Women’s Law Center, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, National Council of Jewish Women, American Association of University Women, National Partnership for Women and Families, Legal Momentum, and Civil Rights Leadership Conference were en masse outside the Senate’s chambers fighting for the bill’s passage. The groups vow to continue the fight and to increase the pressure on the Senate Republicans, especially those up for election.