EEOC photo from a PSA featuring Wynton Marsalis

Senate Passes Ledbetter Wage Discrimination Bill, 61-36

Voting 61-36 with four female Republican senators and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., joining the majority, the U.S. Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, S. 181, shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern tonight. A key bill to congressional Democrats, it will overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2007 that kept a female former Goodyear employee from suing for wage discrimination because she did not file her suit within 180 days after her employer began paying her less than male counterparts, although she was unaware of it at that time. The measure goes back to the House of Representatives, which already easily passed the bill this month when it was combined with another measure, and then would become law if signed by President Obama.

The Senate defeated amendments by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, whose amendment would have retained the 180-day time limit the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in the Ledbetter decision but let the clock start only after "the person aggrieved has, or should be expected to have, enough information to support a reasonable suspicion" of unlawful discrimination. Hutchison, who said her proposal was fair to both aggrieved workers and employers, voted to pass the bill tonight.

The other three Republican women to vote for it were Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Democrats needed at least 60 votes and succeeded; Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is ailing and did not vote, and there are two vacant seats in the Senate today: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's New York seat and the still-contested Minnesota seat that will be filled by either Al Franken or Norm Coleman.

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