What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Civil Rights : S Con Res 70. (Fiscal 2009 budget resolution) Alexander of Tennessee amendment that would allow for funds to be shifted from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission to an English literacy program/On agreeing to the amendment (2008 senate Roll Call 58)
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S Con Res 70. (Fiscal 2009 budget resolution) Alexander of Tennessee amendment that would allow for funds to be shifted from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission to an English literacy program/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 58     Mar 13, 2008
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment by Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that would allow for the shift of $670,000 from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) to an Education Department grant program for English literacy and civics education.  The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal employment discrimination laws.

The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2009. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.

Alexander said the EEOC is “balkanizing” America through its activities, such as suing the Salvation Army for requiring its employees to speak English on the job. 

“Any employer may require any employee to speak whatever language, but that is our national language. Only a few things unite us—our common history, the principles in our founding documents, and our common language. We should be valuing rather than devaluing our common language,” Alexander said.

Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said current law requires that employers may mandate the use of English only on the job if the job requires English to be spoken.  “But employers cannot use English-only rules as an excuse when they want to fire minorities who are performing the job correctly. In this fact situation, those employees had performed the job correctly for 5 years,” Kennedy said. “In addition, this amendment reduces the EEOC’s ability to fight all forms of discrimination because it cuts the entire budget. That means race, age, religion, and disability cases will be harmed.”

By a vote of 54-44, the amendment was adopted.  All but one Republican present voted for the amendment (Mel Martinez, R-Fla.)  Of Democrats present, all but 7 voted against the amendment (those voting no included the most progressive members).  The end result is that the measure went forward with language that would assume a shift of $670,000 from the EEOC to an English literacy grant program.

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