BY Kerry Eleveld
April 08 2010 5:55 PM ET
Although the effort to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year has been declared dead by Capitol Hill insiders on occasion, signs of life are starting to emerge. Strategists say a smooth and successful vote in the House could give the bill momentum in the Senate, where securing the votes is still an uphill battle but not impossible.
Lawmakers expect the bill — which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — to get a vote in the House Education and Labor Committee sometime in the next several weeks, with a floor vote coming shortly thereafter.
“There’s no barrier to getting it to the floor,” said Rep. Jared Polis, who sits on the committee. “I would expect that it would be scheduled within a week or two of coming out committee.”
In fact, a source with knowledge of the process said the floor vote was likely to be scheduled first at which point the committee vote would then be coordinated to precede it by about a week.
The source said that representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Polis would undertake an informal vote count (known as a “whip count” in Hill patois) upon returning from recess on April 12 and, assuming the numbers look good, majority whip Jim Clyburn would launch an official whip count while the Democratic leadership worked on scheduling a floor vote. The legislation, H.R. 3017, has 198 cosponsors in the House.
Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, was optimistic about the prospect of passage in the House and said the two votes were being scheduled tightly together so that those who oppose the bill would have only a narrow window in which to organize.
“We are confident that as the caucus looks at where the vote count stands, we will have the support we need to pass a fully inclusive ENDA,” she said.
But Herwitt also acknowledged that the Senate poses more hurdles than the House for multiple reasons.
“We still need to continue to do education in the Senate around the gender identity language,” she said, adding that House members were much more proficient on the issue.
She also singled out the Senate’s process as an equal challenge:
“Moving a freestanding bill, regardless of whether it’s LGBT or any
other progressive bill, is fraught with danger based on the ability of
any one senator to go down to the floor and muck up the process.”
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