Ogo Indecision, Redux?

As you might recall, last year Jim Ogonowski's Congressional campaign ran aground when he refused to say how he would vote on the SCHIP veto override; Niki Tsongas pounded him mercilessly for it. Is he doing it again?

Two days ago, Senate Republicans blocked the Fair Pay Act from a vote -- it came three votes shy of the 60 needed to end a filibuster. The Democrats will surely try again next year, and clearly every vote will matter. John Kerry was a co-sponsor of the bill. Late Wednesday, I contacted the campaigns of both Republicans seeking to replace Kerry this fall, and asked how they would vote on it.

Jeff Beatty's campaign has provided me with a statement from the candidate. Although he does not specifically say how he would vote, he makes clear that he sides with his party: "I owned a small business for many years.... New regulations like these are exactly what we don't need right now.... [M]y experience tells me this bill would end up hurting the very businesses and people it's trying to help."

Ogonowski's campaign, on the other hand, has not given me a response, despite several follow-up attempts.

The Fair Pay Act is in response to a Supreme Court ruling last year, which essentially changed the longstanding interpretation of the 180-day statute of limitations on pay discrimination lawsuits. The clock now starts ticking at the onset of the imbalance, rather than the most recent paycheck. The ruling will eliminate the ability of many, if not most, workers to bring such suits against their employers -- for instance, when a woman discovers after several years that she's being paid less than her equally experienced male co-workers for the same work. The current bill would bring the law in line with what everyone thought the law meant prior to the SC ruling.

Republicans in the Senate argue that it would unleash a torrent of unnecessary litigation. But that's a tough sell to much of the public, to whom it looks like the GOP is protecting employers' ability to screw their female employees. It's no coincidence that of the six Republicans who defected and voted for the Fair Pay Act Wednesday, four are facing tough re-election challenges this year: Collins (Maine), Coleman (Minnesota), Smith (Oregon), and Sununu (New Hampshire). (Snowe of Maine and Specter of Pennsylvania are the others).

Last year's SCHIP bill, which sought to extend health benefits to more children, posed a similar dilemma to Republicans -- which is why Ogonowski looked so craven in refusing to take a side. I am hoping that Ogo is not making the same mistake again, so I am awaiting his answer and will pass it along when I get it.

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