Friday, January 16, 2009

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (1/16/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week ("back in the saddle" for the 111th Congress; there were no Senate votes).

(And by the way, before I forget, allow me to extend a welcome to Dem John Adler, who was elected last fall over Repug Chris Myers for the 3rd District seat in New Jersey vacated by the departure of Repug Jim Saxton.)


Pay-bias suits. Voting 247-151, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 11) giving plaintiffs greater standing to file suits alleging pay discrimination. The bill would permit claims to be filed within 180 days of the latest infraction. This would nullify a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., which requires pay-bias suits to be filed within 180 days of the first infraction.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
This prior post explains more about the reason for the bill (and it’s truly commendable that passing this piece of legislation was the first vote of the new session).

As I noted in July of ’07, the Supremes upheld a lower court ruling that Lilly Ledbetter was not a victim of pay discrimination, and I’ll do my best to explain the logic behind the action of the court of Hangin’ Judge J.R. (I’m not a lawyer by any means, I should add).

Suppose you find out, after, say, a year, that a worker of another gender doing your job was making appreciably more money than you were for that job. Well, the ruling upheld by Roberts and his court was that Ledbetter had waited too long to file her discrimination claim (180 days beyond the first instance, which, in this example, would be the first paycheck from a year ago representing the discriminatory wage).

Well, suppose (as in the Ledbetter case) you don’t know you’re being discriminated against until the 180-day window passes? Why should that be your fault?

And this bill corrects that by treating each example of pay discrimination as a new “instance,” thus reopening the 180-day “window” all over again (something advocated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent of the original Roberts ruling, which she correctly termed “parsimonious”).

Wage discrimination. Voting 256-163, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 12) to strengthen the federal law that bans pay discrimination based on gender. The bill empowers women alleging pay bias to sue for recovery of back pay and receive punitive and compensatory damages and bans employer retaliation against those who share salary data with coworkers.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: LoBiondo and Pitts.
And after removing any “wiggle room” from the existing law so J.R. and his pals couldn’t play any more games, the House strengthened the existing law to give greater rights and protection to claimants – nice job (and of course, pay close attention to those opposing all of this).

Presidential papers disclosure. Voting 359-58, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 35) requiring incumbent and former presidents to release their official papers to the public without undue delay, except in cases involving national security.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
Why, hello Joe – welcome back! All ready to cast more truly idiotic “No” votes, I see (and to learn more about how that waste of chromosomes from PA-16 spent his time away from being a Congressional obstacle, click here).

Presidential library donors. Voting 388-31, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 36) requiring presidential library foundations to make quarterly disclosures of those who contribute more than $200.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
Speaking of which, it should be interesting to find out who contributes to Dubya’s Super Colossal Freedom Library, which could very well emerge as the single greatest repository of comic books the world has ever seen.

111th Congress rules. The House voted 242-181 to adopt its operating rules (H Res 5) for the 111th Congress. Republicans objected to the package mainly over its limits on the use of "recommittal" motions to derail bills headed for final passage.

A yes vote was to adopt the rules.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts and Smith
Aww, poor Repugs; how dare those dastardly Dems try to thwart the Repugs for scuttling legislation (elections have consequences – to be fair, though, recommit motions seem to be used frequently by minority parties; not a wealth of reading material out there on this topic, though).

This week, the House debated the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the disbursement of $350 billion from the Troubled Assets Relief Program. The Senate schedule had not been announced.

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