Senate Democrats Wednesday came up three votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed to a floor debate on a pay discrimination bill written in response to a Supreme Court decision that makes it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue.
The 56-42 vote reflected Majority Leader Reid’s decision to change his vote to allow him to bring the bill to the floor at a later time. “It’s a signal we’re going to bring it up in a timely way,” said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy. “Hopefully next time we’ll have the votes.”
Six Republican senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and John Sununu of New Hampshire — joined with all Democrats in voting for the bill.
Fresh from the Pennsylvania primary, Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., both showed up for the vote.
The presumptive GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was absent. “I’m not going to expect him to be here for many votes,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla. “I think he’s doing a great job doing what he’s doing.”
GOP leaders protested that the vote was scheduled to accommodate the campaign schedules of Clinton and Obama. “There is no secret we have two members of the U.S. Senate running for president. Three, in fact, but I only care about two of them,” said Reid in response, noting that it is extremely difficult to legislate around campaign schedules.
If Reid schedules another vote on the bill, the candidates will need to return to the Capitol if there is any hope of reaching 60 votes.
“Because of the way this came up, it really becomes simply political theater,” said Coleman. Coleman said he believed the bill was flawed, but he wanted the opportunity to debate it and alter it.
This article appears in the April 26, 2008, edition of NJ Daily.