Will Women Get *Gasp* Equal Pay…Finally?!?!

Christ it is about goddamn fucking time that Congress did something to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the Ledbetter case. I’m not going to go into the details of this, so read the Court’s finding if you want the details. Suffice to say, the Court’s narrow 5-4 decision struck a serious blow against equal pay for women, and what do you know, it was Alito, one of Bush’s appointees, who wrote the majority opinion.

On Friday, however, Congress voted to pass two laws that effectively overturned the Court’s decision in the Ledbetter case and made it harder for employers to pay women less for performing similar jobs as men do. However, the New York Times story I linked to suffers from the same syndrome that all mainstream reporting on Congressional activity do: it never even once actually tells you the bill number of the legislations passed, and nor does it provide links to those legislations on THOMAS.

But bagging on the New York Times is neither here nor there, so I’m going to provide the links to those legislation. H.R. 11 is the House resolution that essentially overturned the Supreme Court’s decision, and H.R. 12 is the House resolution that makes it harder to employers to pay women less for performing the same jobs as men do. Furthermore, what the New York Times story fails to mention is that those two legislations are considered under a special rules package, House Resolution 5, which stated that once H.R. 12 is passed, its text will be added to H.R. 11.

Why is knowing these procedural information important? Because institutions cannot function without rules, and rules to a large extent dictate what could or could not happen. Institutional rules, in other words, have a huge influence on the outcomes of the process. So if you know the rules, you can predict, with a fair degree of accuracy, what can or cannot happen with a certain legislation. And believe me, Congress fights tooth and nail over what rules are adopted for this very same reason.

Too bad the mainstream media never picks up on the importance of rules, and time and time again it fails to do its civic duty by informing citizens the sheer importance of rules. Oh well.

A prima facie examination of the connection between special interests and voting behavior, courtesty of Maplight.org (discliamer: I used to intern for them and I honestly believe they are performing an absolutely essentially function for the public) comes down to what I would expect: on average, special interests opposed to this bill gave on average $131,395 for members of Congress who voted against the bill and $71,655 to those who voted for it. Special interest favoring the bill gave on average $112,376 to each Member who voted for the bill and $6,611 to those who voted against it.

Of course, I’m not making any kind of causal claim here, but even this crude data should tell us something about how this bill will fare in the Senate, also known as the place where good bills go to die. If you notice, there is a huge disparity between how much each Member received for voting against special interests. Those interests who did not support the bill’s passage more than 10 times as much to members who voted againsted their interests, compared to how much special interests who did support the bill gave to their opposition.

What can we infer from this? First, as the data shows, the special interests who opposed the bill’s passage are overwhelmingly business-oriented interests. And historically, these type of interests have always had more money to gave than just about every other special interests. We can make sense of the data by thinking about cost constraints: because business interests have much more money to give, they can afford to give more to everyone, including those members of Congress who voted against them in this instance. This way, they are essentially paying to make sure that they are good terms with everyone, something that the other side is clearly not able to do.

Thus, when this bill goes to the Senate, you can expect special interests opposed to this bill can and will give much more than their counter-parts to Senators. And since money gets you access, these interests will have more and better access. So what does this translate into: either a watered-down version of the bill that loses much of its bite, or the bill in its original form will not get the 60 votes required for cloture. But given the current political climate, the first option is more likely.

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