The meet-and-greet was, as I understand it, for Congressman Frank to gave a brief talk on the status of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that's working its way through Congress. It became apparent that some of the lessons learned could easily be moved beyond that particular Act.
As is the protocol in these sorts of meetings, the introductions telescoped upwards to the guest of honor - Bruce Kraus introduced Congressman Doyle who introduced Congressman Frank. Kraus described Doyle was a great friend to the LGBT community and Doyle described Frank as "part-political theorist, part pittbull," who was so intimidating as a debater that no member of the House, while discussing an issue, ever wanted to hear Congressman Frank's voice interrupting "Will the gentleman yield?"
The issue at hand was a provision to add transgender people to those who are protected by ENDA. He released a statement a few weeks ago on this, by the way. The Act, he said, will "loose by 100 votes" with with the transgender provision included. From his released statement:
The question facing us – the LGBT community and the tens of millions of others who are active supporters of our fight against prejudice – is whether we should pass up the chance to adopt a very good bill because it has one major gap.On Saturday, he put it more simply:
We are in danger of losing a victory we could win.The outlines of the story, though, could easily cover the nationwide frustrations over the Congress' inability to, say, stop the war in Iraq or begin impeachment. Frank offered a target - the person to be angry at - James Madison. As we all know, the Constitution, while providing for a full election of the House of Representatives every two years, only allows for an election every two years for 1/3 of the Senate. The other 2/3 of the Senate, Frank said, were elected in 2002 and 2004, when the Republicans were still riding high, assing that it takes two elections to control the Senate.
Frank said he wanted to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of voters, frustrated that the 2006 Congress hasn't done more, will just stay away from the polls in 2008. On the other hand, he described a frustrating setting where the left was threatening allied Democrats in the House for NOT supporting the transgender provisions all the while NOT lobbying those moderates who hadn't yet decided. He said that on the left side of the internet (and I think he meant the liberal blogs) there wasn't much discussion about the danger of including the provision in the act. The Democrats control The House, so why can't they just add it on? Frank corrected that false impression by pointing out that the Constituion allows for two legislative bodies; The House and The Senate, NOT The House, The Senate and The Internet.
Add to that the danger faced by the new members of Congress who'd defeated incumbent Republicans in districts carried by Bush 2004.
Push too hard, too fast and some Democrats could loose their seats - and Frank wants nothing more than a Democratic Congress - with a larger majority. And he said that if you don't want politics to enter into a dicsussion of an issue, then don't ask 535 politicians how to deal with it.
While wishing the transgender provisions could be included, he said he believed the Act would go ahead without them. Doyle announced that Congressman Jason Altmire would be voting with Doyle and Frank on ENDA.
There were a few questions along the lines of "What should the transgendered community do now that the act is moving forward without it?" Frank replied that the community should be lobbying moderates who are undecided and supporting (not hurting) those allies who support the community.