Deja Vu

ENDA To Be Reintroduced In Congress, Where It Will Probably Die Again

What would a session of Congress be without another chance for ENDA (or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for the acronym-averse)? On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D.-OR) plans to introduce yet again the bill, which would provide protections against being fired on the basis of sexual orientation.

“We definitely see a tremendous amount of discussion of marriage equality,” Merkley told Kevin Drum of the Washington Post. “The momentum in that area will also be reflected in this area of employment. I feel we have reached a turning point.”

ENDA is the legislative equivalent of a sixty-year-old debutante. The legislation has been proposed in nine out of the ten past Congressional sessions and it has gone nowhere. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it was passed a long time ago in the light of the marriage debate, but Congress is the graveyard of progress so it continues to languish.

Is this time any different? Sen. Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, promises to get the bill to the Senate floor for a full vote. But, due to perennial Republican threat of filibuster, it takes 60 votes to get anything passed in the Senate these days. Even if all 54 Democrats sign onto ENDA, which would be a stretch, supporters still need to pick off six Republican senators. Right now, only two–Mark Kirk and Susan Collins–are co-sponsors of the bill.

Now, it’s possible (in the sense that it’s possible pigs might sprout wings) that Senate Republicans could see this is a chance to pivot away from the anti-gay positions that are harming their chances at the national level. More likely, however, they will argue that federal regulations will strangle business, because business is so much more important than people.

Even if there is no filibuster, the odds in the GOP-controlled House are really slim. Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are getting ready to introduce the bill there, following on their introduction of an anti-bullying measure.  For House Speaker John Boehner, making sure the bill never comes to a vote is an easy gift to conservatives who don’t much trust him.

So, sorry, folks. It looks like you soon may be able to say “I do,” but your boss may still be able to say “You’re fired.”

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