I was extremely surprised and pleased to read the news in DC Agenda (soon to be the Washington Blade again - yay!) that Speaker Pelosi is planning a House vote on Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal this year.
Here's the DC Agenda quote:
"It is the Speaker's intention that a vote will be taken this year on ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] in the House," Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, told the Washington Blade in a statement this week.
I think this is a wonderful development, though not in the most obvious of ways, because it signals that the Speaker wants to appease an increasingly restive LGBT constituency. There were months of major Ignoring, followed by a short Alluding period. "Appeasement" is a step up on the Pelosi Meter.
But I wouldn't mistake her "intention" to take a vote on DADT with an actual vote taking place. I mean, look at how much wrangling there has been with ENDA, which, unlike DADT, clearly has enough votes.
To my mind, her statement on a DADT vote represents a major reversal on the Democrats' LGBT legislative stance. It's also in line with the sudden resurgence of comprehensive immigration reform, which was assumed to be the target of Speaker Pelosi's infamous "no more hard votes" speech to the Democrats not so long ago.
It tends to confirm the notion I've been discussing that the Democrats more generally are trying to lock up their base -- including the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. That is a shift from the "no hard votes" position, which would signal a move to the center in an attempt to appeal to conservative independents. I have an interesting ally in this theory: Phyllis Schlafly.
Of course, a lot of people got very nervous yesterday when President Obama issued a video appeal for organizers to help in getting the "new voters" back to the polls - African-Americans, Latinos, women and young people. No gays mentioned in there.
It's understandable that we're as nervous as cats in a roomful of rocking chairs, given the way we've been treated the last year and a half. But still, I don't see the LGBT community as "new voters." I think we've been getting out to vote a lot in the past decade, on the whole, so I can see why he wouldn't include us in that group. I can also see why he might not want to wear a rainbow tie in that video either. My guess is that he and the Dems are assuming that their actions will make us happy and get us out to the polls. If that's the case, then I'm pleased to accept. You can keep your video.
As for Speaker Pelosi, over the past six months, she has mostly been silent on the issue of scheduling votes on LGBT matters. She hasn't said much about scheduling ENDA, which clearly has enough votes in the House. Scheduling DADT repeal, which clearly doesn't have enough votes in the House at this moment, has never been on her lips.
Why would she issue a statement on a DADT vote now? To my mind, it suggests that she wants to appeal to the LGBT constituency. Appeal for what, you ask? Midterms elections, of course. She wants those 7 million LGBT votes. So if we want a vote as our party favor, she's going to give it to us. Or at least say she's going to give it to us. Of course, she knows and I know that when time comes for scheduling such a vote, the question posed to the community is going to be "There's not enough votes here but do you really, really want a vote anyway?" Scheduling a vote is not the same as breaking your kishkes to ensure passage. She'll give you a vote, but will she give you her heart? I doubt our major advocacy organizations are going to back going into a losing vote. So she'll be off the hook. No harm in offering to take a vote, knowing how that tune goes.
In case you're wondering why I think there aren't enough votes, take a look at the Act On Principles website, which maintains active public whip counts on all LGBT bills. While not really representing hard numbers, the count there strongly suggests there aren't quite enough votes in the House.
But the willingness of Speaker Pelosi to say that she intends to schedule a vote is definitely a major step up. And that rising tide lifts all boats, including ENDA.
By the way, where is that whip count on ENDA? Where is the markup? Where is the scheduling of a vote?
My guess is they're in no rush to accomplish too much right now, because then all eyes will be focused on DADT repeal, and we might even start demanding more stuff, like DOMA repeal. But they definitely want our votes, so it pays to string us along.
As long as I get my string of ENDA pearls, string me along all you want.