Editors' note: Pam Daniels is a writer and activist with 23 years experience in broadcast news and media including the staff of a former Governor.
"The Speaker has said that she plans to bring it up this session so I certainly believe that that's what she plans to do and I'm optimistic we'll have a vote on [an inclusive ENDA] in the lame duck session," said Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) at the beginning of my interview with him for this guest post on Bilerico Project. Polis immediately added that he's "not optimistic that we can pass it out of the Senate but hopefully we'll have a strong showing out of the House."
Polis indicated that the House committee vote could occur within the first week of a lame duck session.
I asked Representative Polis if a "Motion to Recommit" might be put forth by the Republican leadership and he answered that the Republicans "might do it to take out the transgender protection and just leave protection for gays and lesbians and then we would have to defeat that with a majority vote."
Polis added that the vote on a motion to recommit "could go either way; it's very close. On every issue (the Republicans) try to figure out the issue that would most divide Democrats, you know, and score the most political points."
If a recommit motion on ENDA is defeated, Polis said he expects it "to pass handily" in a final floor vote. He warned that without Senate passage in the lame duck session we'd have to start all over with a new Congress.
I asked Rep. Polis the inevitable "what if" question: What if an inclusive ENDA doesn't pass this year? What words of encouragement would he offer to the LGBT community?
Polis replied, "We should be motivated to get rid of members of the House and Senate that stand in the way [of passing ENDA] and [replace] them with members who support passing [ENDA]."
I also interviewed the main sponsor of ENDA in the Senate, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and he characterized Rep Polis' optimism for a lame duck session floor vote in the House as "tremendous news." Merkley said he's "hopeful" for passage in the Senate but laid out the array of likely obstacles for even getting a floor vote in his chamber.
Merkley confirmed that at present both the House and Senate ENDA bills are identical in language so any change in the language of the House bill at final House passage would present some complications for Senate passage during the short lame duck session.
The gauntlet that ENDA must traverse to obtain final floor passage in the Senate is daunting to say the least. While Senator Merkley sees no obstacle to getting ENDA out of committee, in the senate the republicans would likely try to delay, if not defeat, ENDA with a "motion to proceed," which if not passed would prevent the full senate from even debating the bill.
Merkley characterized any Republican motion to proceed as "completely unacceptable." He added that a Republican motion to proceed to prevent even debating the bill on the Senate floor would be a "completely undemocratic thing to do" and warned that ENDA would need 60 votes just to pass the motion to proceed before it could be debated and passed, again with 60 votes on the Senate floor.
If the Republicans don't offer any "motion to proceed," then ENDA would only need a simple majority vote to begin floor debate.
Sen Merkley also wanted the LGBT community to understand that we shouldn't use the recent DADT vote as a template for how many votes we should get for final passage of ENDA in the Senate because DADT repeal was tied to a defense spending bill that gave many members, including ENDA co-sponsor Susan Collins (R-ME), an easy excuse to vote against DADT. Merkley said the recent DADT vote "certainly wasn't a test vote" on ENDA.
I asked him directly how many votes we have for final passage, and he said, "I think we definitely have 51, but to get to 60 takes everyone who's undecided. But here's the thing, if you don't have a vote on the floor people never have to take a stand and for many folks who've never taken a stand we'll never know where they are."
Merkley continued, "It is outrageous that people can be discriminated against in one of the most fundamental aspects of our lives which is the right to earn a living."