Monday, September 26, 2011

Does ENDA Stand a Chance in the Senate?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is an extremely important bill. It would prohibit businesses from discriminating in their hiring practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite overwhelming support among the electorate for a non-discrimination statute, Congress has yet to pass ENDA.

The Human Rights Campaign announced today that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Va.) will cosponsor ENDA in the Senate.   This means that the Senate HELP Committee now has majority support for ENDA and could pass the bill out of committee.

But what then?  Hagan's announcement brings up the tally to 41 cosponsors in the Senate, including three Republicans (Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)).  But these days, you need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate, as the Republican minority has been all too happy to filibuster any bill it has even a slight problem with. 

In the last Senate, ENDA had 44 cosponsors ( says 45, but it's counting both Ted Kennedy and Paul Kirk, who replaced Kennedy after his death); of them, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) have yet to cosponsor ENDA in the current Congress.  If you live in Louisiana or Wisconsin, click on those links to contact your senator and urge him or her to cosponsor ENDA again.  I have no doubt they will if enough of their constituents ask them to do so.

That would bring us up to 43 cosponsors; we would need 17 more to pass ENDA in the Senate.  Is this possible?  Below is my list of potential "yea" votes:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

Essentially, this list includes the rest of the Democratic Caucus, and two more of the eight Republicans who voted for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal last year.  I did not include Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), because I really can't see him voting for ENDA.  Some of these might seem like a longshot, but keep in mind they don't need to throw their whole weight behind the bill by cosponsoring it - they just need to vote in the affirmative when push comes to shove.

This list comprises 13 senators, which would bring us up to 56 ENDA supporters - four short of cloture.  It's possible that four Republicans would vote for cloture but not for the bill, but I'm not sure I see it given their caucus' behavior so far this Congress; the only Republicans I could imagine doing that are already on this list.

So is ENDA DOA in the Senate this Congress?  It seems like it.  And with both chambers focusing on jobs and the deficit for at least the next few months, I can't imagine ENDA would even come up in conversation until at least next year, and by then we'll already be thinking about the election, and then the bill's prospects for the next Congress.  And it goes without saying that even if the Senate did manage to pass ENDA, the GOP-controlled House would not do so.

But the fact that the bill won't make President Obama's desk this Congress doesn't mean we shouldn't still push for the bill.  It would make a powerful symbolic statement to rack up more and more cosponsors for this very important legislation, just as we've celebrated several DOMA repeal milestones this month.  If you live in one of the states represented by one of the senators listed above, click on their name to contact them and tell them to get onboard as a cosponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 

ENDA may be out of the question this Congress, but we can still push for equality, and starting the battle now will make it all the easier to win next time around.


  1. Hey, keep in mind all of them voted to repeal DADT last year. Never would've thought Burr would vote for that, but when push comes to shove you see where people really stand when it comes to equality. I think we could get 50 to support it.