As frustration mounts over House Republican leaders' refusal to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to the floor for a vote, equality advocates are considering a long-shot, unconventional option to get around GOP intransigence: a discharge petition.
A discharge petition is a legislative maneuver that allows a majority of House members (218, to be exact) to force a bill out of committee and onto the full floor. Although threats of and attempts to use discharge petitions are not entirely uncommon, the technique has only been successfully used twice on major legislation in recent history.
But last week, when the Washington Blade surveyed the seven GOP ENDA co-sponsors, they found a decided lack of enthusiasm for the measure: six refused to comment, and the seventh, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (pictured above) -- supposedly the LGBT community's biggest supporter in the House Republican caucus -- flatly refused to sign on, claiming through a spokesperson that a discharge petition is a "partisan political tool."
However, as ThinkProgress reports, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen didn't have similar scruples when it came to other measures, such as repeal of the Affordable Care Act:
[Ros-Lehtinen] was quite willing to use the technique when her party was in the minority between 2007 and 2010. Over that span, she signed... discharge petitions to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to prevent the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to repeal Washington, DC's gun laws, to gut biofuel requirements, and an array of other things. She even signed a petition aimed at establishing a 72-hour waiting period on all House bills -- a promise that the GOP has repeatedly broken since regaining the majority in 2011. Ros-Lehtinen's spokesman did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the distinction between those measures and ENDA.
Apparently, revoking access to health care for millions of Americans is a cause that's important enough for Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen's discharge petition signature, but taking a similar procedural step to protect members of the LGBT community -- including her son Rodrigo, who is transgender -- from employment discrimination is a "partisan political tool." What a pathetic cop-out.
But LGBT people shouldn't feel too bad, though, because ours isn't the only community Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is apparently willing to throw under the bus. According to ThinkProgress, the Latina congresswoman is one of three Republican co-sponsors of a comprehensive immigration reform bill who refuses to sign a discharge petition that would overrule the party's obstructionist leadership and force the bill to the floor.
Some "ally" she is, eh?