It's the dawn of a new day in Washington D.C. and around our great nation. For the past eight years many Americans have felt neglected, even damaged by the current Presidential administration. Together the 111th Congress and President-elect Barack Obama will bring change and accountability to the people of our nation.
To some across the world, the United States is no longer the bright shining light that sets the example of what a country can and should do for its citizens. The swearing-in of a new Congress and the inauguration of our new President on January 20th will show everyone that hope is alive. The Democrats in Congress are working on several important bills that will help the women, children and families of this great nation.
Starting this month, Congress along with the new President will work on refocusing and making the needs of the average American family a priority as well as undoing the damage and neglect of the past eight years. The challenges are great, and many. The current economic forecast is the bleakest we've faced since World War II and the Department of Labor reports that the number of people remaining on unemployment has reached its highest point since November, 1982. Nearly 2 million Americans have lost their jobs in 2008 and real wages for the average American family decreased $1,000 during the Bush Administration. This situation won't turn around overnight. But, we will take action to improve the economy. Congress is working with President-elect Obama's team to create fiscally responsible legislation that would create and save 3 million jobs in the next 2 years - and make our economy stronger in the long run. Our plan will strengthen the middle class, not just Wall Street CEOs and special interests in Washington. We will protect vital services like health care and nutrition assistance for families who now find they are struggling to make ends meet.
Congress will vote to help ensure men and women receive equal pay. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, on average, women only make 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. That could mean a difference of $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime of work. As families struggle with the current economic crisis, it is more important than ever that working women get paid fairly and equally.
The Paycheck Fairness Act will strengthen the Equal Pay Act and close the loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay.
The bill will give women the same access to recover back pay and damages as victims of other types of pay discrimination.
The bill doesn't allow courts to accept poor excuses for unfair pay practices.
And, it protects employees who discuss pay information from retaliation by their employers.
The Lilly Ledbetter Act is named for a woman who worked for nearly two decades at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber facility in Alabama. She sued the company when she learned that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at the plant, despite having more experience than several of her male counterparts. A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex. However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination.
The legislation Congress will vote on restores the intent of the Civil Rights Act before the Supreme Court decision.
It keeps employers from being able to run out the clock by keeping discriminatory practices hidden.
The House will also vote on renewing a popular health insurance program for children. Unless Congress acts, federal funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) will end March 31st. SCHIP provides health insurance for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance coverage. It's worth noting that President Bush vetoed this bill twice in 2007, denying these children and their parents the peace of mind of knowing that if there is an emergency, they have medical coverage. About 6 million children are now enrolled. When this is passed an additional 3.4 million uninsured children will be able to see a doctor when they are sick, receive preventative care, or can go to a dentist. In Florida the SCHIP program is called KidCare. Our state currently has approximately 700,000 children without health insurance. While KidCare insures 320,000 of them, the passage of this bill will provide relief for an additional 230,000 children.