U.S. Senate to bring ENDA to a vote – contact Sen. Jeff Flake

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Steve Benen reports today,
Senate readies ENDA for floor vote
:

Back in July, the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee easily approved
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), 15 to 7. Since then,
however, there’s been little action – Congress was out in August, and by
September, the prospect of a government shutdown and/or debt-ceiling
crisis dominated the landscape.

But with the crises having past, at least for now, senators are once again returning to the issue.

The Senate’s partisan balance will move a tick to the left
Thursday, when Cory Booker takes his seat as the 55th member of the
Democratic caucus. And the New Jersey newcomer looks increasingly likely
to make a bit of history befitting his national profile only a few days
later, by providing an essential vote to advance the most important
civil rights bill of the decade.

Legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination
based on sexual orientation or gender identity is on the cusp of
securing a filibuster-crushing supermajority of 60 senators – close
enough that proponents are ready to call the question.

New Jersey’s Cory Booker (D) will be sworn in on Thursday, and by Roll Call’s count, that will bring the total number of ENDA supporters in the chamber to 56, including a handful of Republicans.

That wouldn’t be quite enough to overcome a far-right
filibuster, but proponents believe a lobbying push can secure the
remaining support necessary to overcome obstructionism and allow the
Senate to vote up or down on the proposal. Indeed, the lobbying campaign
will reportedly focus on Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte
(R-N.H.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.),
and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Flake voted for a previous version of ENDA in
the House several years ago
, and Portman, who has an openly gay son, has
endorsed marriage equality.

In case anyone’s forgotten, ENDA is tough to argue against. A lot of Americans don’t know
this, but under existing law, gay people can be fired from their jobs
simply because of their sexual orientation. Discrimination on the basis
of race, [color, national origin], gender, or religion is illegal [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended], but an employer could walk up
to a gay employee this afternoon, declare, “I don’t like gay people so
you’re fired,” and there’s literally nothing in federal law to prevent
this happening.

ENDA would prohibit this form of discrimination.

As a rule, when Republicans balk at the issue, they tend to
say this is an issue that should be left to the states – they don’t
endorse employment discrimination, the argument goes, but it’s not an
issue the federal government should address. [Riiiight. See Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.]

The counter-argument is pretty straightforward: if you’re a
policymaker comfortable with federal anti-discrimination laws to protect
women and minority groups, then you have no reason to oppose ENDA.
Either you’re willing to tolerate employment discrimination or you’re
not.

Expect Senate action on ENDA within the week. The odds of
success in the Republican-led House would obviously be far more
difficult, but proponents appear to be taking a one-chamber-at-a-time
approach.

Contact Senator Jeff Flake and tell him to reject a GOP filibuster, and vote to move to consideration of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate. Online Contact Jeff – Senator Jeff Flake or call his office:

DC Phone 202-224-4521

DC FAX 202-228-0515

District Office (Phoenix) Voice 602-840-1891 FAX 602-840-4092

District Office (Tucson) Voice 520-575-8633 FAX 520-797-3232

UPDATE: The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes, For Republicans, a big test on gay rights:

The question will be, What happens in the House? Interestingly, gay
rights advocates are hoping that the self-debilitating chaos that took
hold of the GOP caucus during the shutdown fight could play in their
favor. As Hawkings puts it:

LGBT advocates sense an opening to capitalize on
efforts by the party establishment to grow their base in order to
prevent a takeover by tea partyers and culture warriors, which could
debilitate the GOP’s national prospects for years.

* * *

Polls show majorities support marriage equality. Gay marriage is legal in 14 states. And  in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that created a whole new legal framework
for challenging gay marriage at the state level, same-sex couples and
gay rights groups currently are pursuing lawsuits in 20 more states, according to Lamda Legal. So the culture continues to shift.

A stand against gay workplace discrimination should theoretically be easier than favoring gay marriage, because it doesn’t come freighted with the same cultural and religious implications.

* * *

If Republicans stand in the way of ENDA, it will reinforce the sense of a
party that is adamantly refusing to evolve along with the rest of the
country and the culture, and deepen the perception that it remains
hostage to its most hidebound, extreme and intolerant elements.

UPDATE: Senate Majoirty Leader Harry Reid promises ENDA Job Discrimination Ban To Get Senate Floor Consideration By Thanksgiving:

“When the Senate convenes at 2 p.m. today, Sen. Reid will announce that
he will bring ENDA to the floor this work period, which ends just before
Thanksgiving,” Reid adviser Faiz Shakir told BuzzFeed prior to the
session. “Exact floor timing remains to be determined based on how votes
go this week, but it could come up as early as next week.”

* * *

The Human Rights Campaign, which has been one of the leading advocacy
groups pressing the legislation for more than a decade, praised the
move.

“We’re gratified that Sen. Reid is bringing this important
bill to the floor. Over the course of the past six months, we’ve worked
hard to ensure that senators know their constituents support this bill.
We’re in the homestretch of securing the 60 votes necessary and remain
optimistic that the support will be there when we need it,” HRC vice
president for communications Fred Sainz said.

Freedom to Work’s Tico Almeida pressed his group’s work on securing support from Republicans.

“After
months of meeting with Republican senators and their senior staff,
we’re confident we have the 60 votes to defeat any attempted filibuster.
But we’re keeping the pressure up as the vote approaches,” he told
BuzzFeed.

Comments are closed.