Another gift to the Democrats from John McCain

McCain opposes letting women underpaid today because of previous discriminatory actions by their employers have their day in court. The voters should hear about that.

Say what you like about Sen. Straight-Talk-Speak-With-Forked-Tongue, he’s generous to his opponents. He hands them issue after issue.

Now McCain has decided to oppose a bill on discrimination against women in the workplace. In particular, he refused to vote for cloture on a bill to reverse the Ledbetter decision, which says that companies that practiced discrimination against female employees in the past and are still underpaying them as a result can keep right on underpaying them.

McCain’s excuses: lawsuits (you can’t have people just going to court to seek justice, can you?), and undue government interference in private business (surprise!). He’s opposed to discrimination, of course: it’s just that he’s more opposed to doing anything about it.

McCain’s Republican colleagues managed to defeat cloture and kill the bill. Cloture needs 60 votes; it got only 56. So we need to pick up four Senate seats and the Presidency in order to put remedial legislation on the books. And the Republicans must be made to pay a political price for their obstruction.

Fortunately, the facts in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire could hardly be more appealing. The plaintiff won a jury verdict that her current pay reflected a history of discriminatory performance evaluations. But the 11th Circuit ruled that the claim was time-barred, and the Conservative Caucus of the Supreme Court (Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, and Thomas) agreed. Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter, and Breyer dissented. So a poor old woman was cheated out of justice on behalf of a big company by a vote of 5-4.

That ought to make a very nice “red meat” section of every Democratic stump speech from now to November.


Lilly Ledbetter

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: