The House passed two bills this past week to protect equal pay for equal work, the Lilly Ledbetter Act and an amendment to the Paycheck Fairness Act. The former passed with three Republicans voting for it, the latter with ten.
The Lilly Ledbetter Act would overturn the Supreme Court's Ledbetter decision, which was a hand-out to the far right that made it nearly impossible for someone to prove pay discrimination. The other bill makes it easier to file suit against job discrimination, which is near-impossible now.
The bills still have to make it through the Senate and Obama will likely sign them into law. Good stuff. All the employment protections in the world don't mean a thing if they're not enforced.
What I did want to draw attention to was the fact that these bills passed almost strictly along partisan lines. Three Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for one of these bills, or three Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against it, makes it hardly a bipartisan action.
I know that we're supposed to be living in a post-partisan world, but apparently Republicans didn't get the message here and almost all voted against a bill with overwhelming support from the public. They put their partisanship, and their material interests, ahead of doing what's both right and popular.
The NY Times goes on to propagate a new myth about the Senate that only increases Republican power:
Mr. Obama is eager to sign the bills, and it appears he will be able to do so. Supporters of the legislation said they believed they could come up with the 60 votes needed to ensure passage in the Senate, after two vacant seats are filled.
Sixty votes? Last time I checked the Constitution, only a simple majority was required in the Senate. Sixty's the filibuster line, but I'd like to actually see Republicans filibuster these bills. I mean, actually reading the phone book, the American media explaining that these folks are so bothered by the idea that women would be treated equally that they are willing to waste the whole country's time.
Bills are supposed to pass the Senate based on a simple majority, and the mechanism that safeguards against constant filibustering is the fact that these folks get embarrassed in front of everyone. But because over the last two years these people haven't been forced to actually filibuster much of anything, simply threaten that they will to take it off the schedule, we've started to accept that 41 votes in the Senate can defeat a bill.
Funny how that happened right when the Democrats took back the Senate.
We aren't living in a post-partisan age, and the only way we're going to get anything done is to stop worrying about bringing the right to the table on these issues. Because it's never going to happen, not even on an issue as simple as equal pay for equal work.
So, these are two great bills that will probably get all the way through. But it's a lesson for the next time we hear about "bipartisanship" or "both parties working together" or only passing bills with "85-vote majorities," we ought to remember that that only happens if Democrats capitulate to Republicans, not the other way around.
They only work together when they want to exploit the public, not when they want to help us out. That's reason enough to stop dreaming about bipartisanship.