What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Equal Access to Justice : S. 5. Class-Action Lawsuits/Vote to Defeat an Amendment to Exempt Civil Rights and Workers' Rights Suits from Provisions of Bill Making It More Difficult for Injured Consumers to Bring Suit in State Courts (2005 senate Roll Call 6)
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S. 5. Class-Action Lawsuits/Vote to Defeat an Amendment to Exempt Civil Rights and Workers' Rights Suits from Provisions of Bill Making It More Difficult for Injured Consumers to Bring Suit in State Courts
senate Roll Call 6     Feb 09, 2005
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

In this vote, the Senate defeated an amendment offered by Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to S. 5. S. 5 is a bill to move many multistate, class-action consumer lawsuits (multiple claims from various lawsuits with parties in more than one state combined into one, larger lawsuit) from state to federal courts. Procedure in federal courts is generally considered less friendly to consumers bringing suits than in state courts; specifically, some state courts are viewed as more likely to award very large sums of money to successful plaintiffs (those who bring the suit) than federal courts. Kennedy's amendment would have exempted civil rights and workers' rights suits from the bill. Progressives argued that Kennedy's amendment, for example, would continue to permit workers who had been forced to work extra hours without pay to look to the state courts to force the corporations for whom they worked to award them the wages they were owed, particularly in cases where state law offers greater protection to workers than federal law. Republicans countered that civil rights and labor protections are available in federal court; thus the Kennedy Amendment was unnecessary. But Kennedy responded by pointing out that "many civil rights class actions can only be brought under state law because there is no federal law on the particular issue involved." In addition, opponents accused Progressives-with this and other amendments-of trying to attach provisions to the bill which would ultimately result in the bill's death. They expressed fear that if the Senate were to pass a bill that included any amendments at all, then a conference between the House-which had already passed its own version of the bill-and the Senate would be necessary to reconcile the two versions of the bill, and due to the compromises that had already been struck to pass a bill in the House, the conference would fail and the legislation would die. The Senate defeated the Kennedy Amendment by a vote of 40 to 59; thus, consideration on the bill proceeded with diminished protections for workers and victims of civil rights violations.

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