GOP Tricks Worry Dems on ENDA

By Kerry Eleveld

Originally published on Advocate.com May 13 2010 6:30 PM ET

Democratic aides said Thursday that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is still headed for a vote, but they continue to be concerned about Republicans offering what’s known as a “motion to recommit” to the legislation that might torpedo the bill or reduce its transgender protections.

A Democratic leadership aide noted that Republicans recently offered such motions on two job creations bills, the Home Star bill and the America COMPETES reauthorization bill. In both cases, the motions passed but had different effects on the legislation.

“If Republicans are willing to play politics with jobs legislation,” said the aide, “can you imagine what they will do with a motion to recommit on ENDA?”

The aide said the language that was added to the Home Star bill, for instance, prohibited funding from going to child molesters. The legislation went on to pass with the additional provision, and the aide said stripping it out would have to be addressed in conference when the Senate and House versions of the legislation are reconciled.

But on the second bill, House speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to pull the legislation from consideration and before final passage after a motion to recommit passed that targeted individuals caught watching pornography at work.

“It’s very clear that the Republicans are not interested in substance,” said the aide, noting that additions were completely irrelevant to the bills. “The LGBT community should be doing everything they can to both pass ENDA and kill a motion to recommit — making sure their members are on board with both votes.”

A spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts said that Speaker Pelosi still plans to take a vote on ENDA this session but declined to discuss the timing of the vote.

“The congressman said today that the speaker is committed to moving ENDA,” said Harry Gural.

The bill, which would prohibit discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, currently has 202 cosponsors and still awaits a committee vote before being sent to the floor for a full House vote.

Gural said the vote count — or whip count — continues to be conducted through the office of the House majority whip, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, as well as those of representatives Frank, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jared Polis of Colorado.

According to Baldwin, members are being asked two questions: how they would vote on final passage of ENDA and how they would vote on a hypothetical motion to recommit that would diminish protections for transgender individuals. But specific language for a motion to recommit does not have to be offered until just minutes before a vote is taken, so it’s nearly impossible to know what form it might take.

“With over 200 cosponsors, passage of the bill is assured,” Baldwin said in an interview two weeks ago. “I think the only question mark is what sort of meddlesome motion to recommit will be brought forward.”