View From the Hill: Legislatively Speaking

LGBT legislation is finally on the move, with new developments on DOMA and DADT repeal, immigration reform, and more. Now the race is on to capitalize before the 2010 election.



We got two reminders this week of why it's oh-so-important to capitalize on moving LGBT legislation before the 2010 midterms.

First, President Barack Obama's approval ratings took a hit in three separate polls. Gallup's daily tracking numbers dropped him to 56% approval -- his lowest to date -- with 36% of voters disapproving of his performance, a new high. Rasmussen Reports also recorded their worst numbers and, finally, Quinnipiac found that he dipped below 50% in Ohio this week.

While this is just one of many, many weeks to come in Obama's presidency, it's a reminder of the fundamental law of politics that what goes up must come down -- a new president's honeymoon period is inescapably ephemeral.

And then there was the 60th Democratic senator. While progressives were anxious to swear in Al Franken, this could very well end up being the curse of 2010. Say what you might about the party not marching in lock-step and no guarantees, etc., but in the eyes of the public, Democrats now own the government and have no real excuses for what they either do or don't do.

Liberals who don't see their green or gay or gutsy agenda enacted will blame the Dems even as Republicans try to bludgeon them with anything that's too progressive for moderate America.

Historically, the party that controls the executive branch almost always loses congressional seats in the midterms. My theory is, that backlash grew in size and scope as soon as Franken raised his right hand.

Indeed, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor was on NPR Friday morning charging, "This president and this Congress own the economy" and predicting great GOP gains, if not a "takeover," in 2010.

OK, enough doom and gloom. The counterbalance to that less-than-rosy scenario is that LGBT issues are starting to see some action on the Hill after successive months of complete stagnation.

Employment nondiscrimination has been introduced in the House and Rep. Barney Frank says it's on track for House passage this year. No Senate bill yet.

Hate-crimes legislation has passed through the House and a Senate Democratic aide tells me it is expected to be attached to the Senate's Department of Defense reauthorization bill next week.

The tactic of attaching hate crimes to DOD reauthorization went down in flames in 2007 after the amendment was eventually removed from the final bill once Senate leadership concluded the legislation would not pass with the hate crimes provision.

But several sources, including the aide, say the DOD bill is by far the best vehicle for hate crimes this year. While some activists would like to see it passed as a stand-alone bill, that's simply not the Senate way. "Do you have any idea how many amendments that would attract," the aide said, calling the approach "fatally flawed."

Tags: Politics