What Fresh Hell Is This?

November 8, 2007

ENDA and the Motion to Recommit

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 235-184. (Go take a look - local Representatives Mike Doyle and Jason Altmire voted for ENDA).

The "transgender provisions" discussed here recently by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) were to be introduced as an amendment by Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). But before the vote was taken, she withdrew the amendment. She explains why:

In her comments, she said that while she felt the amendment would have "strong support," she also believed it would fail. She ended her comments with this (transcript here):
With a commitment to my colleagues and all Americans committed to equality of opportunity, and ending discrimination, that I will do everything within my power to make this measure whole again.
Of course the Republicans tried to kill the bill. Not on its merits, of course, but with something called a "Motion to Recommit." Here's what happened:

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) led the recommit effort, saying it was necessary to "ensure this bill does not become the building block that some may want to use to destroy the institution of marriage." His motion sought to send the bill back to committee to add language saying nothing in the bill could be construed as redefining marriage for federal or state purposes beyond the definition of "one man and one woman."

That’s when Frank stepped up to the podium at the front of the House and asked Forbes if he would allow the House to proceed to a vote on the bill if Democrats agreed to accept his language by unanimous consent. Forbes balked.

Frank said Forbes’s refusal to accept the offer was a clear indication that Republicans were simply seeking to send the bill back to committee with the "unmistakable intent to put this off until we are due to adjourn."

My understanding is that the instructions attached to the motion included language saying that it would stay with the Education and Labor for nine days before returning to the House.

But the House is adjourning in five days until next session - effectively killing the bill.

The motion to recommit was put to a vote where it failed 198-222. But take a look at the roll for that vote. It's alphabetical, so the name's easy to spot.

Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA) voted in favor of the motion to recommit.

I gotta ask the question, why he vote for a motion that would kill a bill that he, minutes later, would vote for?

I dropped an e-mail to the Congressman's spokesperson for an explanation. I'll report back whatever I hear.


The Bag of Health and Politics said...

He voted against it before he voted for it! Melissa Hart will have a field day with that one. At least be consistent in your votes. People don't like it when politicians play games and try to have it both ways.

Lance said...

Altmire deserves a ton of praise. Some of you might be unaware, but there is a huge amount of controversy surrounding this version of ENDA because it excludes protections for gender identity. For this reason, a lot of people in the GLBT community want the ENDA vote put off until we can get a bill that includes gender identity. This is the reason Altmire voted to recommit. With that vote failing... He was forced to make an up or down vote and to his credit, even though he does not come from a hard-left district, he voted in favor of ENDA.

This was a complicated vote on a complicated issues. Lets not immediatly assume the worst and put people in no win situations.

PghLesbian said...

Yes, the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. Baldwin pulled her amendment so the Repubs won't be able to hold a transpositive vote over the heads of our Dems.

Lance is correct that we have to be careful to look at the vote. I applaud Altmire for his vote for ENDA. I fault the leadership for moving the trans-stripped version of the bill forward in the first place. I don't want a historic moment at the expense of our trans sisters and brothers.

Personally, the entire community would have been better served by a focus on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. There would have more ground support from the LGBT community and probably an easier sell for House members. That would build the framework for an inclusive ENDA.

That didn't happen. It is important now for the community to regroup and focus on the issues that unite us as well as continuing to educate legislators like Jason on trans issues. We don't want to lose his support.

Just my $.02.