- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Senate Democrats last night failed to garner enough votes to move forward a bill that would make it easier for employees to file lawsuits claiming wage discrimination.

The Bush administration had threatened to veto the measure, designed to promote sex equality in the workplace, saying it would lead to a rash of frivolous lawsuits that would clog the judicial system.

“This is basically a vote that’s important to what used to be called the American Trial Lawyers Association, the plaintiffs’ bar,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “That’s why they’re having the vote.”

The 56-42 vote fell four votes short of the 60 votes needed for legislation to proceed and overcome a filibuster. The “yes” votes were 48 Democrats, six Republicans and the Senate’s two independents; 41 Republicans and one Democrat voted against it.

The House approved the bill in July by a vote of 225 to 199, largely along party lines.

“It’s outrageous that the Senate Republicans refused to break their filibuster against equal pay for women,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said moments after the vote. “As we’ve done on other basic bills to protect civil rights, we won’t take no for an answer. This issue isn’t going away.”

The bill is named after Lilly Ledbetter, a former employee of an Alabama Goodyear Tire store who lost a Supreme Court ruling in a case arguing that supervisors at her plant paid her less than her male counterparts.

Last spring, the Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Ledbetter had no case because she failed to file her suit within six months of the supposed discrimination, which she claimed occurred over a period of nearly 20 years. Senate Democrats then pushed the measure to grant flexibility in lawsuit-filing deadlines.

Last night’s vote occurred during the 6 p.m. hour, a time designated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to give Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York enough time to travel from the campaign trail to Washington and cast their votes.

Republicans took umbrage at the scheduling.

“Now, look, we understand people have to run for president and are not likely to be here much of the time,” Mr. McConnell said. “But to have the schedule of the Senate completely revolve around the schedule of the Democratic presidential candidates strikes me as particularly ridiculous.”

Mr. Reid, who supported the legislation, voted against it in order to be eligible under parliamentary rules to enable the Senate to reconsider the bill later — a move other party members vowed.

“We will fight on,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat. “We’re going to tell everybody about this ignominious vote that just occurred … The revolution starts tonight.”

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