Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Steve Benen reports today, Senate readies ENDA for floor vote:
Back in July, the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee easily approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), 15 to 7. Since then, however, there’s been little action – Congress was out in August, and by September, the prospect of a government shutdown and/or debt-ceiling crisis dominated the landscape.
But with the crises having past, at least for now, senators are once again returning to the issue.
The Senate’s partisan balance will move a tick to the left Thursday, when Cory Booker takes his seat as the 55th member of the Democratic caucus. And the New Jersey newcomer looks increasingly likely to make a bit of history befitting his national profile only a few days later, by providing an essential vote to advance the most important civil rights bill of the decade.
Legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is on the cusp of securing a filibuster-crushing supermajority of 60 senators – close enough that proponents are ready to call the question.
New Jersey’s Cory Booker (D) will be sworn in on Thursday, and by Roll Call’s count, that will bring the total number of ENDA supporters in the chamber to 56, including a handful of Republicans.
That wouldn’t be quite enough to overcome a far-right filibuster, but proponents believe a lobbying push can secure the remaining support necessary to overcome obstructionism and allow the Senate to vote up or down on the proposal. Indeed, the lobbying campaign will reportedly focus on Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Flake voted for a previous version of ENDA in the House several years ago, and Portman, who has an openly gay son, has endorsed marriage equality.
In case anyone’s forgotten, ENDA is tough to argue against. A lot of Americans don’t know this, but under existing law, gay people can be fired from their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation. Discrimination on the basis of race, [color, national origin], gender, or religion is illegal [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended], but an employer could walk up to a gay employee this afternoon, declare, “I don’t like gay people so you’re fired,” and there’s literally nothing in federal law to prevent this happening.
ENDA would prohibit this form of discrimination.
As a rule, when Republicans balk at the issue, they tend to say this is an issue that should be left to the states – they don’t endorse employment discrimination, the argument goes, but it’s not an issue the federal government should address. [Riiiight. See Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.]
The counter-argument is pretty straightforward: if you’re a policymaker comfortable with federal anti-discrimination laws to protect women and minority groups, then you have no reason to oppose ENDA. Either you’re willing to tolerate employment discrimination or you’re not.
Expect Senate action on ENDA within the week. The odds of success in the Republican-led House would obviously be far more difficult, but proponents appear to be taking a one-chamber-at-a-time approach.
Contact Senator Jeff Flake and tell him to reject a GOP filibuster, and vote to move to consideration of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate. Online Contact Jeff - Senator Jeff Flake or call his office:
DC Phone 202-224-4521
DC FAX 202-228-0515
District Office (Phoenix) Voice 602-840-1891 FAX 602-840-4092
District Office (Tucson) Voice 520-575-8633 FAX 520-797-3232
UPDATE: The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes, For Republicans, a big test on gay rights:
The question will be, What happens in the House? Interestingly, gay rights advocates are hoping that the self-debilitating chaos that took hold of the GOP caucus during the shutdown fight could play in their favor. As Hawkings puts it:
LGBT advocates sense an opening to capitalize on efforts by the party establishment to grow their base in order to prevent a takeover by tea partyers and culture warriors, which could debilitate the GOP’s national prospects for years.
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Polls show majorities support marriage equality. Gay marriage is legal in 14 states. And in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that created a whole new legal framework for challenging gay marriage at the state level, same-sex couples and gay rights groups currently are pursuing lawsuits in 20 more states, according to Lamda Legal. So the culture continues to shift.
A stand against gay workplace discrimination should theoretically be easier than favoring gay marriage, because it doesn’t come freighted with the same cultural and religious implications.
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If Republicans stand in the way of ENDA, it will reinforce the sense of a party that is adamantly refusing to evolve along with the rest of the country and the culture, and deepen the perception that it remains hostage to its most hidebound, extreme and intolerant elements.
UPDATE: Senate Majoirty Leader Harry Reid promises ENDA Job Discrimination Ban To Get Senate Floor Consideration By Thanksgiving:
“When the Senate convenes at 2 p.m. today, Sen. Reid will announce that he will bring ENDA to the floor this work period, which ends just before Thanksgiving,” Reid adviser Faiz Shakir told BuzzFeed prior to the session. “Exact floor timing remains to be determined based on how votes go this week, but it could come up as early as next week.”
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The Human Rights Campaign, which has been one of the leading advocacy groups pressing the legislation for more than a decade, praised the move.
“We’re gratified that Sen. Reid is bringing this important bill to the floor. Over the course of the past six months, we’ve worked hard to ensure that senators know their constituents support this bill. We’re in the homestretch of securing the 60 votes necessary and remain optimistic that the support will be there when we need it,” HRC vice president for communications Fred Sainz said.
Freedom to Work’s Tico Almeida pressed his group’s work on securing support from Republicans.
“After months of meeting with Republican senators and their senior staff, we’re confident we have the 60 votes to defeat any attempted filibuster. But we’re keeping the pressure up as the vote approaches,” he told BuzzFeed.