Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Washington Blade: There IS a Path to 60 in the Senate

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 30, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: DC Agenda, employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, HR 3017, Lou Chibbaro, Max Baucus, Montana, Nelson Nebraska, North Dakota, Senate, Virginia, Washington Blade

This is Part 1 of a 2-part series.

The Washington Blade is back, and its recent reports suggest that, after the much-exaggerated "Death of ENDA" story in January, there is a path to 60 in the Senate.

How many Senators can you count for ENDA on the map? (Source) Please take a moment to email your Congressional Representative again by clicking here. Yes, again. Every day.

Senate ENDA status 4-29-10.jpg

The Washington Blade: Why I love it and hate it at the same time

Before I get to the Blade's coverage of ENDA, I should explain that The Washington Blade is back. Many of you know that the 40-year old paper went out of business last year after financial troubles. Employees from the paper formed a new venture, DC Agenda. Recently, the assets of the paper were auctioned off, including the name and the archives, and DC Agenda bought them. It has reverted to the venerable old name.

I'm happy that the old name is being revived. It holds many good memories for me since I came out in the 90s and first started reading it. One of the things that I long loved about the paper was its commitment to reporting the facts in a smart and intelligent way, like a "real" newspaper. They had actual reporters, credibility on The Hill, and real access. There are plenty of LGBT opinion outlets, some more informed than others, but for the actual facts, there was no place better than The Washington Blade. DC Agenda has been doing a good job of upholding those traditions.

There was, however, something I did not like about The Washington Blade. Its coverage of transgender issues was strongly tinged with a "gays-first" sensibility, a stance by no means confined to The Washington Blade in gay media. I think a lot of that has to do with Editor-in-chief Kevin Naff, who is a staunch incrementalist on ENDA, and was happily on board the bus that transgender people were thrown under in 2007. This is key to understanding the Blade's extra-cautious reporting on ENDA. More about that in Part 2 of this post, coming Monday.

The Blade's Reporting On ENDA: The Path To 60

The Blade's article two weeks ago on ENDA acknowledged right up front that a favorable House vote is expected. Looking to the Senate, where the real fight is expected to be, reporter Lou Chibbaro again mentioned the many mysterious sources who keep saying that ENDA can't pass the Senate.

Multiple sources have told DC Agenda that supporters in the Senate don't appear to have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster that Republican opponents are expected to invoke to block an up or down floor vote.

My guess that are the same these "multiple sources" who told Chibbaro back in January that ENDA was totally dead. Boy, were they wrong. The most cogent argument against these sources is that their prediction track record is poor.

The article noted there are 45 co-sponsors in the Senate, plus the original sponsor, Senator Jeff Merkley, requiring 14 more votes to get to 60. Chibbaro spoke to people from home states of Senators who are not co-sponsors to get some insight on who is expected to vote for ENDA. This is a major step up from the rest of the gay press, where ENDA's death is assumed by people who haven't taken a count of the votes. When confronted with a vote count, they often cover by adopting a pose of insider status with secret, non-public knowledge that they cannot disclose to someone so naive.

Chibbarro actually talked to people in Senator's home states, who know them and their political positions well. That is real journalism.

Arkansas

With regard to Arkansas, however, he didn't speak to any Arkansas local LGBT groups. That's a bit disappointing. He mentioned that "the state's sole LGBT group," the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR), didn't call him back by press time. In fact, that's not the state's only LGBT state-wide group. There is also the Arkansas Stonewall Democrats. They're alive and well. Also Randi Romo from CAR wrote into the comments saying they tried to call him back, but his voicemail was full. I've talked to Randi, and I trust her.

In any event, Chibbaro still did well. He spoke to Hastings Wyman, editor of the respected Southern Political Report, who said that she would not be surprised to see Pryor vote for it, and Lincoln vote against it.

That sounds about right to me. Pryor hasn't said much about it, but he did vote for the hate crimes bill and his father supported ENDA when he was in the Senate. Meanwhile, Lincoln has been all over the map. She also supported the hate crimes bill, but then her office sent a letter to a constituent last September saying she opposed ENDA. (http://bit.ly/DQSym Comment 3) When asked about it by gay backers, she disavowed the letter, saying it was written by a staffer without her input, but she would not say whether or not she would support ENDA.

Alright, so let's keep count of whom the experts think are likely yes votes on ENDA. 46 votes (sponsor and co-sponsors) +1 (Pryor) = 47

Delaware

Senator Kaufman is a co-sponsor, but Senator Carper hasn't made his position public. Chibbaro talked to Steve Elkins, executive director of Camp Rehoboth, an LGBT advocacy group and community center in Rehoboth Beach, Del. If anyone knows what's going on in Delaware, it is he. He's spoken with Carper at gay-related events and believes the state's senior senator would vote for ENDA.

That sounds right to me. Carper voted for the current hate crimes bill which contains both sexual orientation and gender identity. That suggests that he is comfortable with gender identity language.

So that's 47+1 = 48

Indiana

Indiana political consultant Mark St. John, a member of the board of the statewide LGBT group Indiana Equality, said Bayh has a longstanding reputation as a cautious politician and has yet to give any indication of how he would vote on ENDA. True, but Bayh did vote for the current hate crimes law, which has gender identity language in it. In addition, Bayh is not running for Senator again, so the pressures of election politics are not upon him. I think he'll vote in favor of ENDA, but let's defer to the state expert for purposes of this count.

I'm surprised that Senator Lugar isn't mentioned here as a possible yes vote on ENDA. He has objections to the bill, but they are based on effects on small businesses in Indiana. As I have previously discussed, because of the small business exemption in ENDA, 95% of Indiana business will be exempt from ENDA. In addition, Lugar is also stepping down, so he also has no election year pressures preventing him from doing the right thing. He also voted for the hate crimes bill, so he too is comfortable with gender identity language. Well, the Blade article did say it was confining itself to Democrats, so let's put Lugar aside for the moment.

Missouri

Senator Claire McCaskill's office hasn't said much publicly about ENDA. However, A.J. Bockelman, executive director of the Missouri statewide LGBT group Promo, is quoted to say that McCaskill told members of the group at a meeting in Kansas City in February that she supports ENDA and would vote for it.

"We have talked to her office about the trans provisions in the bill and she is OK with that," Bockelman said.

So we're up to 49 on our count.

Hold that thought until Monday. I have a rule that no post can be more than a mile long. Tune in for Part 2 on Monday.

UPDATE: You can find Part 2 by clicking here.


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Becky Dansky | May 1, 2010 3:19 AM

Thanks Bil for highlighting the senate issue. I assure you it pains me to be on the sidelines as this battle moves forward. And with no senators to nag...

I think the most important part of a senate strategy, aside from hammering those who have yet to commit to a yes vote is the appearance of unity and confidence.

If we learned anything from the Bush years it's that saying something over and over can make it true. If we continue to say that we can get the votes, then people will believe it. They will work for it and vote for it. If allies in congress, the press and advocacy groups say that we don't have the votes, then we will never get them.

I agree with you 100%, Becky. As my mother used to say, if you say you can't, then you can't.

Why do so many top gays insist that we can't? Why do they want Ragnarok? Why do they insist upon it? Why do they get angry when we say the votes are there? Why do they pose as knowledgeable insiders, when all they are doing is repeating the whisperings of other insiders who are as clueless as they, who haven't counted the votes? Why do they keep pointing to transgender people and saying "people won't accept this"?

You should know since you were stuck lobbying for us under Bush II.

Now the million dollar question is how do you bring this diverse group of people under the LGBT umbrella into anything remotely resembling a united and cohesive group. Have you seen the comments section here? :)

Good to hear that there's a path to 60.

Jillian,

Thank you for your thorough coverage on this issue. I agree that there is 60 votes available on this piece of legislation and I think it will receive those 60 votes if the Senate leadership has the courage to put it up for a vote.

A couple of minor comments/technicalities. Our starting point for counting votes is not accurate. It is true that the Library of Congress lists the bill as having 45 cosponsors, however, they never updated the list to reflect Ted Kennedy's death or Paul Kirk being replaced by Scott Brown. So, in reality we are looking at 43 co-sponsors, with Merkley we have a starting point of 44 votes. (Factor in Carper, McCaskill, and Pryor, and we're up to 47... with the other 6 as "confirmed yes" on the Inclusive ENDA sheet (kudos to you) that puts as 53... and of course there are other likely votes that you'll be bringing us in the 2nd installment, like Voinovich, Rockefeller, & Johnson....)

I think Lugar will vote for the bill, however, although he has not announced his reelection campaign, he has not announced a retirement of which I am aware.

I agree that with election pressures removed Bayh will vote for the bill, he voted for the Hate Crimes Bill in 2009 and was an original co-sponsor for the 2003 & 2001 ENDAs, and a co-sponsor of the 1999 ENDA. (i.e. All of the prior ENDAs during his Senate career)

robbi cohn | May 3, 2010 10:10 AM

Thanks again, Jillian, for your dedication. Regarding NC, I have spoken with Sen. Kay Hagan's office on more than several occasions. Not once have I received any kind of indication that Ms. Hagan will vote for ENDA. If we want her vote, we need to mount a massive campaign to let her know how many of her constituents want ENDA passage now. Please continue to remind your readers until we get the kind of support that will finally persuade her to commit.

Thanks again!!

Excellent as always.

Please everyone, keep the Public Whip Count at ActOnPrinciples.org current and accurate.

And please check out the standings of your Senator and verify etc.

http://www.actonprinciples.org/enda-senate/

Groups like HRC and the Task Force (and UnitedEnda.org) -- the insider-insider gossip guessing gang -- resent the public whip count.

But this is where information creates power.

BTW - did everyone see that UAFA made it into the CIR framework? It's the first statement ever by the US Senate recognizing our relationships.

Let's work to keep it in - and see it in the bill. A win on this could be a potential game changer on DOMA and Prop. 8 too.