Antidiscrimination Bill Will Pass, but Without the ‘Bandwagon’ Effect

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speak about the ''No Budget No Pay'' legislation during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. The bipartisan legislation would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to receive their pay.
National Journal
Fawn Johnson Elahe Izadi
See more stories about...
Fawn Johnson Elahe Izadi
Nov. 4, 2013, 3:23 p.m.

While the Em­ploy­ment Non-Dis­crim­in­a­tion Act is now headed to­ward fi­nal pas­sage in the Sen­ate, don’t ex­pect a surge of sup­port from law­makers. It’s a safe bet that in the end the meas­ure will be sup­por­ted by less than 70 sen­at­ors.

The bill, which bans work­place dis­crim­in­a­tion based on gender iden­tity or sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, has not cre­ated the “band­wag­on ef­fect” some­times seen in ma­jor le­gis­la­tion, in which a slew of sup­port­ers piles on once a bill is cer­tain to pass.

In fact, it took last-minute wrangling Monday — par­tially due to the ab­sence of sen­at­ors ex­pec­ted to vote “aye” — to se­cure enough votes on the mo­tion to pro­ceed to the bill, which passed 61-30. A fi­nal vote could come as early as Wed­nes­day.

Pas­sage had been all but locked in by Monday morn­ing, with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., an­noun­cing his sup­port. He be­came the 60th sen­at­or ex­pec­ted to vote for the bill, with all 55 Demo­crats and in­de­pend­ents in­dic­at­ing their back­ing.

Oth­er Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors in fa­vor of the bill are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, who are co­spon­sors. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who wasn’t present for Monday’s vote, and Or­rin Hatch of Utah voted for the bill in com­mit­tee. Re­pub­lic­ans Kelly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Rob Port­man of Ohio — who had been pub­licly un­de­cided on the le­gis­la­tion — are those be­ing eyed as pos­sible “yes” votes. They sup­por­ted the mo­tion to pro­ceed after lob­by­ing from Collins. At one point, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id and the No. 3 Demo­crat in the Sen­ate, Chuck Schu­mer, entered the Re­pub­lic­an cloak­room as part of the ef­fort and struck an agree­ment to put up ad­di­tion­al amend­ments for votes.

As part of the deal, an amend­ment from Ayotte and Port­man that pre­vents loc­al and state gov­ern­ment from re­tali­at­ing against those ex­empt from ENDA will have to reach just a 50-vote threshold for pas­sage. An­oth­er vote will be held on an amend­ment from Toomey that broadens the defin­i­tion of a re­li­gious or­gan­iz­a­tion un­der ENDA. That will need 60 for pas­sage.

The bill won’t likely be­come law in this Con­gress. House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers say the pro­tec­tions af­forded un­der ENDA are already covered by ex­ist­ing law. “The speak­er be­lieves this le­gis­la­tion will in­crease frivol­ous lit­ig­a­tion and cost Amer­ic­an jobs, es­pe­cially small-busi­ness jobs,” said Mi­chael Steel, a spokes­man for House Speak­er John Boehner.

Des­pite that, pas­sage in the Sen­ate is a ma­jor vic­tory for the gay-rights com­munity, which has seen a surge in polit­ic­al “wins” over the last year, in­clud­ing the Su­preme Court’s land­mark de­cision strik­ing down the De­fense of Mar­riage Act and New Jer­sey be­com­ing the 14th state to em­brace same-sex mar­riage.

“In the 44 years since Stone­wall, this has been the gay­est year in his­tory,” said Fred Sainz, vice pres­id­ent for com­mu­nic­a­tions at the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign. “With the Sen­ate pro­spect­ively join­ing the trend, that really tells you that we are on an up­ward tra­ject­ory.”

But law­makers’ sup­port lags be­hind pub­lic opin­ion. The bill def­in­itely has 60 votes and may get a few more. But the na­tion is far more sup­port­ive. About three-quar­ters of Amer­ic­ans be­lieve dis­crim­in­a­tion in the work­place against gays, les­bi­ans, or trans­sexu­als should be il­leg­al, in­clud­ing 60 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans and 59 per­cent of white evan­gel­ic­al Prot­est­ants, ac­cord­ing to the Pub­lic Re­li­gion Re­search In­sti­tute, a non­par­tis­an think tank.

Yet the is­sue still seems to make law­makers squeam­ish, even though ad­voc­ates have done their best to por­tray the nondis­crim­in­a­tion bill as a lo­gist­ic­al ho-hum for em­ploy­ers. (Many of the largest em­ploy­ers already have policies in place pro­hib­it­ing dis­crim­in­a­tion based on sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion.)

“About some of the Re­pub­lic­an reti­cence on the is­sue — I just think they may not have fully got­ten the memo that their con­stitu­ents have moved, even in very re­cent time,” said PRRI CEO Robert Jones. “This is an area where the ground has been shift­ing re­mark­ably quickly.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., sup­por­ted a sim­il­ar an­ti­discrim­in­a­tion bill in the House, which failed in 2007. But he ap­pears to be a “no” this time around. He told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily that he sup­ports the House ver­sion, not the Sen­ate ver­sion. The main dif­fer­ence between the two bills is that the Sen­ate ver­sion cov­ers trans­gender in­di­vidu­als, and the House bill did not.

Port­man has said he is “in­clined” to sup­port the bill. He has already pub­licly stated his sup­port for same-sex mar­riage.

Even some Sen­ate Demo­crats wer­en’t an easy sell on the bill. Ad­voc­ates as­sumed all along that every Demo­crat would get on board with the bill, but they had a hard time ex­plain­ing why some, like Sen. Bill Nel­son of Flor­ida, held out un­til the last minute. Nel­son, un­like the oth­er Demo­crat­ic late­comers, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia and Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas, didn’t have a polit­ic­al reas­on for stay­ing si­lent. Nel­son’s seat is safe, he isn’t up for reelec­tion un­til 2018, and Flor­ida is gen­er­ally fa­vor­able to­ward gay rights. Chalk up Nel­son’s foot-drag­ging to in­di­vidu­al quirks, the ad­voc­ates say.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
17 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
18 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×