ENDA slips behind DADT repeal in Congressional timeline

by on May 21, 2010  •  In Congress, ENDA

Despite new compromise language on gender identity and bathroom use, House members seeking to pass ENDA remain unsure of whether the bill will survive intact when Republicans offer a motion to recommit on the House floor.  Even though no one – perhaps including the Republicans themselves – yet knows exactly how such a motion will be worded, one possibility would be a motion to delete gender identity from the scope of the bill. The revised bill language being offered by the Dems, negotiated with lgbt organizations, provides that employers can impose some restrictions on restroom use, but – given the near absence of any protections today in the majority of states – the compromise still constitutes a net gain in anti-discrimination protection for the great majority of trans workers.

Without a whip count indicating majority opposition to a motion to recommit, House leaders have delayed moving the bill forward, despite calls by several lgbt organizations for an immediate vote. Some organizations have argued that it would be better to risk losing the bill than to prolong the delay, on the theory that the chances of enactment after the November elections will be much diminished if anti-incumbent sentiments produce widespread losses for Democrats.

This tactical question now seems to have been resolved by the calendar, at least for the next couple of months and possibly for the rest of the year. The defense authorization bill is scheduled for floor debate in the House on May 27 and 28, when Rep. Patrick Murphy is expected to offer an amendment to repeal DADT. The defense bill will come before the Senate Armed Services Committee at roughly the same time that it is on the House floor. Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin will move to add DADT repeal to the Senate version if he has the support of a majority of committee members. By Memorial Day, then, there should be a vote on DADT by the full House, with perhaps a vote in the full Senate to follow soon after.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told lgbt organizations that a successful House vote for DADT repeal could make it easier for conservative Dems to vote for ENDA, and – more critically – also vote to reject the Republicans' motion to recommit. Press reports differ as to whether Pelosi promised that she will move both DADT repeal and ENDA to the House floor this year, or hedged by promising to move only when she was sure of winning.

Given the Memorial Day recess that will follow consideration of the defense bill, no vote on ENDA will be possible until at least mid-June. The Hill quoted an anonymous House member who supports ENDA as saying that the vote on it is not likely to occur until months later, probably just before the November election.

To me this strategy translates roughly as follows: Don't force any vulnerable Dems to vote for gender identity protection until the last possible moment before the election, when at least some of them may feel less skittish (and others may be already looking for other jobs). Then Pelosi can try to work her magic on ENDA the way she did on health reform, cobbling together just enough votes to squeak it through.  If that succeeds, and if the White House is committed enough to the issue, ENDA can go on the agenda for the lame duck session of the Senate, which will convene after the election but before the new Congress is sworn in. Conservative Dems in the Senate will either have been re-elected or defeated, and either way will feel they have nothing to lose by supporting ENDA. Then the big O signs it, and everyone celebrates their winter holiday of choice with a little extra oomph.

It might actually work.


One Response to ENDA slips behind DADT repeal in Congressional timeline

  1. Waitingforjohn.blogspot.com May 22, 2010 at 7:21 AM

    Hiya Nan,

    Join dennis Cooper, Edmund White & Tony O’neill reading Waiting For John. It’d be an honour to have you amongst them.


    Love and Thoughts, Tristram. X

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