McCain fails to vote on defeated equal pay for women Senate bill
NEW ORLEANS — Republican Sen. John McCain, campaigning through poverty-stricken cities and towns, said Wednesday he opposed a Senate bill that sought equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits.
The bill was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 56-42.
The Senate had scheduled a late Wednesday vote on the measure, which would have made it easier for women to sue their employers for pay discrimination. Both Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, left the campaign trail and returned to Washington to vote for the bill.
McCain skipped the vote to campaign in New Orleans.
"I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what's being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems," the expected GOP presidential nominee told reporters. "This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system."
The bill would have overturned a Supreme Court decision limiting how long workers can wait before suing for pay discrimination.
It was named for Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s plant in Gadsden, Ala., who sued for pay discrimination just before retiring after a 19-year career there. By the time she retired, Ledbetter made $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor and claimed earlier decisions by supervisors kept her from making more.
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 last May 29 to throw out her complaint, saying she had waited too long to sue.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement blasting Senate Republicans following the defeat of the bill. "By obstructing a vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Senate Republicans have thwarted efforts to restore balance in the law and allow victims of wage discrimination to seek justice in the courts. In so doing, they have again stopped necessary progress for all Americans," read the statement, in part.
Democrats criticized McCain for opposing the bill.
"At a time when American families are struggling to keep their homes and jobs while paying more for everything from gasoline to groceries, how on Earth would anyone who thinks they can lead our country also think it's acceptable to oppose equal pay for America's mothers, wives and daughters?" Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney said.
McCain stated his opposition to the bill as he campaigned in rural eastern Kentucky, where poverty is worse among women than men. The Arizona senator said he was familiar with the disparity but that there are better ways to help women find better paying jobs.
"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.
"It's a vicious cycle that's affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least," McCain said.
McCain chose to visit the tiny hamlet of Inez, Ky., because it is where President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. But McCain, contradicting President Bush by acknowledging the U.S. is presently in a recession, said Johnson's poverty programs had failed.
"I wouldn't be back here today if government had fulfilled the promise that Lyndon Johnson made 44 years ago," he said.
In recent weeks, McCain has proposed a series of tax breaks for corporations, government-backed refinancing for struggling homeowners and a summer holiday from gas taxes. He proposed another new program Wednesday: a tax write-off for companies that provide high-speed Internet access for underserved, low-income communities.
With wire services.