ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports from Capitol Hill: The scheduling gods created a perfect storm of important ‘Days’ today: It’s Earth Day, Pennsylvania Primary Day and Equal Pay Day all wrapped up into one April 22nd, 2008.
But for all the activity on the National Mall for Earth Day and all the prognosticating on the effect of the Pennsylvania Primary on the Democratic nomination, it’s Equal Pay that could actually see some movement this week.
Senate leaders have their fingers crossed that no matter what happens in Pennsylvania today, both Democratic Presidential Candidates are expected to be back at work in Washington tomorrow for a cloture vote on key equal rights legislation which aims to overturn a Supreme Court decision that many see as setting women back a few steps in the workplace.
Senators are approaching a procedural vote as early as 6:30pm Wednesday on whether to take up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which passed the House July 31 and needs to get 60 votes for consideration on the Senate floor.
The bill reacts to a Supreme Court decision in May of 2007 that Goodyear Tire employee Lilly Ledbetter could not collect compensation awarded to her by a lower court because she alleged discrimination only after 18 years of not being paid equitably to her male counterparts. The conservative single vote majority found that she would have had to make the claim within 180 days of the first time she was paid less money for the same job.
The bill would make each paycheck a new infraction of the Civil Rights Act.
Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, who chairs the Senate Committee for Health, Labor, Education and Pensions, has been on the Senate floor every day for the past week exhorting his colleagues in fiery speeches on the Senate floor to support the bill.
"In these times of economic hardship, working people deserve more than ever the chance to earn a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work," Kennedy said last week. As a result of the decision, Kennedy continued "more American workers will have to endure pay discrimination – without the means to stop it…We cannot turn our back on Americans like Lilly Ledbetter, who play by the rules and suffer discrimination day in and day out."
Even with the Democratic presidential candidates returning to Capitol Hill for the vote, its unclear if Democrats have enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. Democrats need 9 Republican votes and only two, Senators Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe of Maine, have publicly said they’ll support the bill and the White House has threatened a veto.
The Republican Leader in the Senate, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, said on-camera today that his Democrats seem to always be trying to do three things with their legislation – "tax, regulate and litigate."
The Fair Pay Bill, he said, could create a massive amount of new litigation in our country."
"Some people would argue that we need more litigation," McConnell said. "I don’t think that most Americans believe that massive amounts of new litigation are needed."
Note – Why the scheduling madness? Earth Day is always on April 22nd. Equal Pay Day is always on a Tuesday in April, when women, who make a quarter less than men, catch up to what men made the year before. The Pennsylvania Legislature had contemplated last year moving their primary up earlier to Super Duper Tuesday, but ultimately kept today as their primary.