Senate Republicans blocked a bill Wednesday that would make it easier for people to sue over pay discrimination, an effort to roll back a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that limited such cases.
Republicans complained that the bill would produce a flood of lawsuits and criticized the chamber's Democratic leaders for putting off the vote until the party's two presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, returned from the campaign trail.
Though several Republicans joined Democrats in voting to break the filibuster, the 56-42 vote was four short of the needed 60.
The bill, dubbed the Fair Pay Restoration Act, is a response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that ruled a person who claims pay discrimination must file a complaint within 180 days of that discrimination taking place.
That deadline is specified in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, and it "protects employers from the burden of defending claims arising from employment decisions long past," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority in the 5-4 decision.
The bill that stalled Wednesday would have reset the clock with every paycheck, with supporters arguing that each paycheck was a discriminatory act. But Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, said the bill would allow retirees drawing pensions to sue their old companies over allegations of discrimination that happened decades ago.
The Presidential candidates also had some differing views on the bill. Obama and Clinton both were in favor of equality for women:
"I'm hoping this chamber will stand up for fundamental fairness for women in the workplace," said Clinton, of New York. "I'm hoping you will stand up and vote to make it clear that women who get up every single day and go to work deserve to be paid equally to their male counterparts."
And Obama, of Illinois, added, "If you work hard and do a good job, you should be rewarded no matter what you look like, where you come from or what gender you are."
McCain was not.
"They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else," McCain said. "And it's hard for them to leave their families when they don't have somebody to take care of them.
Yes, the blame for discrimination in pay lies with women, who are stupid and know nothing about their jobs. McCain claims he's "all in favor of pay equity for women", but apparently not for them being able to enforce it.