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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 19, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 47
Lame duck session may be lame, insiders say
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Lame duck session may be lame, insiders say

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Remember ENDA?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would protect LGBT workers by banning discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to Politico.com, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a conference call on November 11 that she plans to schedule a vote on ENDA before the lame duck session of Congress ends in December.

This is the second report this month that Pelosi wants to schedule a vote on the measure.

Congressional staffers speaking on background said previously that her comments should not be taken as a firm commitment to schedule an ENDA vote, however.

Pelosi supports ENDA, they said, and hopes she can get it passed before Republicans assume control of the House in January, but she is working on many critical bills including unemployment extensions and middle class tax relief.

If Pelosi does bring ENDA to a vote, it may be the best chance it will have for passage until new congressional elections in 2012.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently told reporters that he saw 'zero chance' of any LGBT-friendly legislation passing once Republicans take control of the House in January.

ENDA currently has 196 cosponsors in the House, with 218 votes needed for passage.

Even if Pelosi can round up an additional 24 votes to pass the bill, its prospects on the Senate side are bleak.

Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott - an ENDA cosponsor - said that the senate is the main obstacle to passing pro-Gay legislation.

'The outlook for legislative action before year's end on a number of bills that would positively affect the LGBT community looks grim,' he said in a statement sent to SGN.

'The House of Representatives has sent hundreds of bills to the Senate that became dead on arrival. The Senate's outdated rules have made passing important legislation nearly impossible without an overwhelming majority.'

Forty-four senators are ENDA cosponsors - including Washington Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell - but Senate rules require 60 senators to agree to bring a measure to the floor for debate.

The prospects are not much brighter for Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.

The House voted 239-194 to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell when it passed the Defense Department Authorization in March.

In the Senate, repeal is also attached to Defense Authorization, but Republican senators blocked an attempt to bring the bill to the floor in September, and Republican John McCain has pledged to filibuster it if it comes up again.

DADT repeal was attached to the Authorization bill - considered a 'must pass' measure because it authorizes funding for the U.S. military for 2011 - to make it more likely to pass.

Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) fueled speculation that DADT repeal might be stripped from the Authorization bill and sent to the floor as a stand-alone measure, reducing its chances for passage.

'I'm trying to pass a 900-page bill,' Levin told reporters. '[DADT repeal] is two pages out of a 900-page bill.'

Levin's office told SGN that no decision had been made to separate DADT repeal from the Authorization bill, however.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on November 17 that he would schedule a vote on the Authorization bill - with DADT repeal still attached - after Thanksgiving.

According to the Washington Post, Reid may get the 60 votes necessary to bring the bill to the floor if he agrees to allow Republicans an opportunity for 'a sustained floor debate' on the measure, including the opportunity to offer amendments.

In September, moderate Republican Susan Collins (R-ME) said she voted against allowing debate on the Authorization bill because Reid wanted to limit Republican amendments to the measure.

Reid spokesperson Regan Lachapelle told SGN that the majority leader is negotiating with all sides to try to bring DADT repeal to a vote.

'Senator Reid is continuing to discuss this with his caucus and the Republicans and hopes that we can consider the legislation in the coming weeks,' Lachapelle said.

On November 18, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), one of the cosponsors of the Authorization bill, wrote to Sens. Levin and McCain, urging the Armed Services Committee to keep DADT repeal in the bill.

'I have heard the stories of some of the thousands of patriotic servicemembers whose valuable military talents have been lost to our military [because of DADT],' Murray wrote.

'These men and women volunteered to serve their country in a dangerous time, and their exclusion from the ranks of the Armed Forces represents a glaring injustice as well as a limitation on our military effectiveness.'

She went on to say that the repeal language attached to the Authorization bill 'represents a sound legislative approach that would protect the civil rights of American servicemembers while minimizing any potential disruption to military personnel policies.'

Murray was recently reelected secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference, the number four position in the Democratic Party leadership.

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