This vote was on whether to send a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to extend the time limit in which workers can file employment discrimination lawsuits back to the Education and Labor Committee for a complete rewrite.
Buck McKeon, R-Calif., made the motion, saying the committee had not had a hearing on the bill and that it is “so sweeping in scope” that it needs to be debated in a “comprehensive fashion.”
“There has not been a full and fair debate, regular order has not been followed, and it needs to be. As I noted in my remarks, we have not entertained, in the three times that this bill has been brought to the floor, a single Republican amendment,” McKeon said.
George Miller, D-Calif., said the motion is a “desperate attempt” to keep the bill from passing. Miller said the House had passed the bill earlier in the session and that the Senate has passed similar legislation. He noted that last year, hearings were held in two committees, including Education and Labor, and just two amendments were offered in markup session. “They could have offered more. They chose not to,” Miller said.
The bill in question would, in effect, nullify a Supreme Court decision from 2007 setting out a timeframe in which workers who believe they were victims of wage discrimination must file a suit. The case required that suits be filed within 180 days of when the alleged bias had first occurred. The decision was brought to light in Congress by a woman named Lily Ledbetter, an Alabama tire company employee who discovered that she had been paid less than men doing the same work, but only after 20 years of employment, making her ineligible for filing suit. The bill in question would extend that time limit significantly thus making it much easier to bring wage discrimination lawsuits.
Republicans have complained bitterly that the change would invite a host of new discrimination lawsuits by lawyers eager to collect fees. Democrats counter that claim, saying the law will only restore what was in place prior to 2007.
By a vote of 176-250, the motion was rejected. All but one Republican present voted for the motion (Bill Cassidy of Louisiana). All but two Democrats present voted against the motion. The end result is that the House turned back a motion that would have allowed lawmakers to completely overhaul a bill that would make it easier to bring wage discrimination lawsuits. This overhaul process, which takes place at the committee level, can mean the bill never has a chance to come back to the House floor for final passage.