ENDA the filibuster


by David Safier

Here's an interesting side note to the passage of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate, 64-32. A number of stories have noted that the closest the bill came to passing before this was 17 years ago when it failed by one vote.

Using my "Everything-I-know-I-learned-on-Wikipedia" googling skills, I looked up that 1996 vote. It was 49-50.

The 1996 vote says something about both the evolution of the country's attitudes toward gay rights and the devolution of the Senate to the necessity of a filibuster-mandated 60-40 vote to pass any legislation. The current vote had 15 more senators in favor than before, not 4 more as is implied by the news reporting that mentioned that ENDA went down by one vote in 1996, a sign of the groundswell of support for gay rights in the country. Undoubtedly, the bill would pass the House if Boehner let it come up for a vote. But the fact that the news coverage doesn't mention that most bills once needed nothing more than a simple majority in the Senate reinforces the idea that the media and the country have accepted the filibuster as the new normal, not even thinking about the 20 vote majority needed to pass anything these days, thanks to the "Just Say No" Republicans.


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