How times have changed. Minority Leader Boehner was among the 414 House members who cast a vote Thursday in favor of a genetic nondiscrimination bill. With that vote, the bill is a pen stroke away from becoming law. Five years ago, the very same proposal evoked the infamous "Boehner shrug," an unquotable but clear dismissal. At the time, Boehner chaired the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which had partial jurisdiction over the bill. The Senate had completed months of painstaking negotiations to come to a consensus on it, which culminated in a dramatic 95-0 vote in November of 2003. The bill then came to a screeching halt in the House. Boehner announced that the committee would hold a hearing. It passed the Senate again, 98-0, in February of 2005. Boehner promised to give it another look. Nothing happened.
Time marches on. The genome was mapped. Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga. popped a cop. Former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., learned a lot about monkeys in the course of tanking his re-election. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, finding himself the subject of a mug shot, unwittingly ushered Boehner into the number-two House Republican spot. The genetic nondiscrimination bill sat on a shelf gathering dust.
This week that all changed. "Usually it's the journey and not the destination that counts. But after a decade of exhaustive wrangling on this issue, I think most members are happy to see it resolved once and for all," said a GOP aide who has been involved in the issue for years. After the vote, Boehner said he didn't think his support represented a change of heart. "When it all started, it was a bit premature," he said. "Obviously things have happened over the years that make it a bit more relevant than it was then."
Hmm. Could one of those things be a Democratic majority?
This article appears in the May 3, 2008, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.