- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CONGRESS

Pay-bias bill goes to Obama

Congress sent the White House on Tuesday what is expected to be the first legislation that President Obama signs into law, a bill that makes it easier for women and others to sue for pay discrimination, even if the discrimination has prevailed for years, even decades.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama would sign the bill, a top priority for labor and women’s rights groups, Thursday during a public ceremony in the East Room.

The bill is a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said a person must file a claim of discrimination within 180 days of a company’s initial decision to pay a worker less than it pays another worker doing the same job. Under the bill, every new discriminatory paycheck would extend the statute of limitations for another 180 days.

The measure, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after receiving a congratulatory phone call from Mr. Obama, is “a bold step to move away from that parsimonious interpretation” of the Supreme Court.

COMMERCE

Software executive nears appointment

Software company president John Thompson is President Obama’s top choice for commerce secretary, senior Democratic sources said Tuesday.

“[Thompson] is the leading candidate,” one Democratic source said. “He is still being vetted.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said a final decision had not been made.

“To the best of my knowledge, no decisions have been made about a commerce secretary,” Mr. Gibbs told a briefing. “I believe [Thompson’s] name has been out there as among the candidates that the administration has thought about, but according to the latest thinking that I had, no decision on that had been made.”

Mr. Thompson is chairman and chief executive officer of Symantec Corp., the No. 1 software-security company, best known to consumers for its Norton product line.

Symantec announced late last year that Mr. Thompson, who was among the first Silicon Valley executives to throw his support behind Mr. Obama’s bid for the presidency, would step down in early April.

TESTIMONY

Gates warns of Afghan danger

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday “we are lost” unless the United States can find a way not to kill so many civilians in the pursuit of Islamic militants in Afghanistan, and that flooding the chaotic country with U.S. troops would be a disaster.

Mr. Gates, the only Republican Cabinet member whom President Obama asked to stay on, told a Senate panel that the Pentagon could send two more brigades to Afghanistan by late spring and a third brigade by late summer to try to salvage a war that has ground to a grim standoff with entrenched and resourceful militants.

But Mr. Gates said he is deeply skeptical about adding any more U.S. forces after that, in part because military dominion in Afghanistan has failed for every great power that tried it.

“The civilian casualties are doing us an enormous harm in Afghanistan, and we have got to do better,” to avoid innocent deaths, even though the Taliban militants use civilians as cover, Mr. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “My worry is that the Afghans come to see us as part of the problem, rather than as part of their solution. And then we are lost.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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