Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I, too, shortly want to make some remarks about our good friend from Delaware as he leaves the Senate today to take up his new responsibilities, but first a few observations about the next item on the agenda, the so-called Ledbetter legislation.
Let me say to my good friend the majority leader, I intend to vote for cloture on the motion to proceed. He and I have had a number of constructive conversations privately, and he has reiterated again today publicly that we are going to make an effort to get the Senate back to operating the way it used to, which is that bills are amendable. So I have said to my colleagues and I would say to my good friend from Nevada that I trust you and believe you that we are going to get on the Ledbetter bill, we are going to have amendments and have votes and then dispose of the legislation in the normal way.
With regard to the substance of that particular measure, despite the gross distortions voters heard about this legislation in the runup to the November elections, the Ledbetter bill as written is neither about women nor fairness, and it is not about whether pay discrimination should be illegal. Pay discrimination is illegal, and it has been since 1963. Rather, this bill is about how long the statute of limitations on pay discrimination suits should be.
Last night, Republicans began to outline a proposal for addressing this question in a way that is fair for everyone. Senator Hutchison's bill strikes the right balance. It says the clock should not run out on someone who has been discriminated against until he or she discovers the alleged discrimination. This way, the focus is where it should be, on the injured party.
The Ledbetter legislation unfairly targets business owners, who may or may not have discriminated against a man or a woman, on the basis of pay years or even decades ago. Its primary beneficiaries are lawyers, who want to squeeze a major settlement out of every company that fears the expense or the publicity of going to court. This bill is unfair to business owners who in many cases will no longer have the evidence they would need to mount a convincing defense, and it is unfair to the millions of American workers who are worried about losing their jobs in the current economic downturn. Job creators have enough to worry about at the moment. Adding the threat of never-ending lawsuits is a new burden the Federal Government should not even be considering at this particular time.
No right-thinking American would defend discrimination of any kind in the workplace or anywhere else. And it is unfair to the public to suggest that those who oppose this bill endorse discrimination. It degrades our public discourse and it degrades the legislative process.
Many of us oppose this bill as written because it will paralyze businesses and add an even greater strain on workers than they currently face. We support a business climate that creates the conditions for success, not a climate that harasses the millions of men and women in this country who support themselves, their families, and their workers by owning and operating small businesses.
Republicans have a better proposal and other good ideas to help American workers. I believe we need to get on the Ledbetter bill, as I said a few minutes ago, and have an open debate about it so the American people can hear Republican alternatives and the Senate has an opportunity to vote on more than what our good friends on the other side have offered.