Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Where is the Senate on ENDA?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 13, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: employment inequality, Employment non-discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, workplace fairness

It's close. But we can do it.

As I am sure you remember from Schoolhouse Rock, it's hard to make a Bill into a Law. In order for a Bill to be presented to the President for signature, it must pass both houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Here it is in case you've forgotten:

As you can see from the video, even after being referred by a House Committee to a floor vote, and gaining the requisite 218 votes for passage in the House, this is not the end of the story -- far from it. The whole process must be repeated in the Senate, and then the President must sign it. The House is almost there, though more work is needed to inoculate weak-kneed Representatives for crunch time.

But the Senate -- that's going to be door-to-door combat.

Senate Numerology: Why 51 Is Not a Majority in a 100-Person Senate

The magic number in the Senate these days on a bill of this type is 60. Even though a bill supposedly passes when a majority of the 100 Senators votes for it, that's not the way it works in actual practice.

The Senate has some crazy rules. If any Senator feels like it, he or she can move for a procedural filibuster, which blocks the usual rule-by-the-majority, in which 51 votes is enough to pass a bill. Then the bill can only be voted upon if 60 Senators vote to stop the filibuster.

It's pretty likely that someone will move for a filibuster. That means we need 60 Senators

Reading the Senatorial Tea-Leaves: The Forty-Niners

We can get an idea about Senatorial positions from the publicly available information on THOMAS, the Congressional Bill Service. As an index of sorts, I have tallied up for the Facebook Inclusive ENDA campaign a spreadsheet of Senators who have co-sponsored bills containing sexual orientation and gender identity language. 48 sitting Senators have co-sponsored such bills.

One of these, however, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), has indicated that he is, in fact, undecided. Click here to email him.

In addition, there are also two Senators who have never co-sponsored such a bill, but who should be included in the yes column because their offices confirmed to our Facebook Inclusive ENDA members that they will support the bill. Those are newly minted Senator Al Franken (MN) and Senator Mark Warner (VA).

That makes 49 in the hopefully yes column.

I note that there are some Senators on this list whose offices could not say when called what their position is on an inclusive ENDA. These include the following Senators: (click on their names to send an email)

Even though they won't yet provide confirmation to us, I am fairly hopeful they are supportive, but simply waiting for the Senate bill to come out before offering a statement.

Who Should We Target in the Senate?

I have chosen 17 Senators to specifically target in the Senate based on party and voting patterns. They are the "swing" votes that will make or break ENDA. If you are in one of these Senator's states, it is particularly important that you email, call and meet with them.

The first group in this list is composed of those Democrats who have co-sponsored bills including the language of sexual orientation only. They're half-way there. There are 6 on that list. (Click on their names to email)

Adding these 6 to the 49 makes 55 votes.

The second part of the list is composed of those Democratic Senators who have never co-sponsored a bill including either sexual orientation or gender identity, and who have not publicly confirmed their support of ENDA. They are also good prospects; presumably they will feel an interest in voting with their party. There are 6 on that list. Click on their names to email:

Adding these 6 makes 61 votes.

The third part of the list is composed of those Republican Senators who have co-sponsored a bill that includes either of these terms. This makes them more likely to cross party lines and vote for ENDA. Other Republican Senators may also join them, but these are the ones I think most likely to support ENDA. Two of these are already included in my list of 49 above, but, as the investment firm ads say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. There are four on that list. (Click their name to email)

  • Olympia Snowe (R-ME) (already included in the list of 49)
  • Susan Collins (R-ME) (already included in the list of 49)
  • Richard Lugar (R-IN)
  • John Ensign (R-NV) (supported S1145, the 2005 hate crimes bill, which included sexual orientation but not gender identity, and he's in hot water with his party over a scandal, and didn't co-sponsor S909 this year, but hey, you never know.)

Adding in the two previously uncounted Senators (Lugar and Ensign) makes 63

And don't forget Sen. Bill Nelson (FL), who's said he is undecided. That's 64.

Start Contacting Your Senators

So the tea leaves suggest there are possibly 64 votes in the Senate in favor of ENDA if we get all our ducks in a row.

That's pretty close. I also hear that Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd are not feeling well, and are not often in the Senate to vote.

It's close, but we can do it if we get smart and get targeted.

The key is contacting your Senators and asking them to support the Senate version of ENDA. (It'll be the same text as HR 3017, but with a number starting with "S" for Senate.) If you're in one of these target districts, you definitely ought to be contacting their offices to set up a meeting to discuss ENDA in the local state office near you.

If we can get a few more fair-minded Republicans to support the bill, that would be very, very helpful.

As co-chair of the Facebook ENDA campaign, I ask that you call your Senators, and email me the results at ENDAcampaign@gmail.com so we can put it on our Senate ENDA spreadsheet.

You can find the contact info for your Senators here.

If you would like us to set up a meet for you in August at the local state office near you, you can sign up here. I also recommend attending JoinTheImpact's July 25 teach-in.

Have at 'em!

P.S. On Thursday, July 16, the Senate voted to attach the hate crimes bill to the Defense Reauthorization Act. Voting in favor were Republicans Murkowski and Voinovich. That's a good sign for their support of ENDA.

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I'm wondering, after ENDA passes, what are the hopes for achieving protections on housing and accommodations as well? Will we have to rely on a court decision for that, or are there any current bills seeking to cover this as well?

Recent instances like the El Chico incident and the Utah one seem to underline the importance for these protections as well.

I have emailed and called Bill Nelson (fingers crossed!). I would like to echo Lucrece's question: What's the next move for federal non-discrimination policies?

Etta Weiss's Clean Plate Club

Re these questions about what's next: As my sainted mother, Etta, used to say, clean your plate first and then you can have more.

I entirely understand your impulse to think about what's next. There are so many rights that the LGBT community has been denied, and it's unconscionable to allow these to continue.

But Etta would say clean your plate first -- and then you can have more. Let's get Congress to do what is clearly accomplishable if we work for it -- pass ENDA. There are still more votes needed in the House and Senate to ensure passage, though it's close.

I am unable to worry about what's next - I'm too worried about what's now. I have Congress on my speed dial and I spend 12-15 hours a day figuring out who's persuadable, finding contact info, alerting friends to the next actions needed on ENDA, faxing meeting requests, calling Congressional offices about meetings, emailing Congressional offices about meetings, and confirming Congressional meetings. I'm also teaching two courses and I have a wife whom I love and a new puppy (who is the cutest ever omg).

I say let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. It's easy to make ourselves crazy and burn out. If we pass ENDA, we have demonstrated our ability to compete and win in federal politics. If we don't pass ENDA, which is so clearly doable, then nothing else is going to happen for a long, long, long time.

I totally support your clear and heartfelt commitment to full equality for the LGBT community. But as my sainted mother would say: Clean your plate, and then you can have more.

Seconds, anyone?

I have contacted Senator Lugar's office by email on his site. Thank you for the link.

Dana Lleuwelllyn | July 23, 2009 9:36 AM

What can we learn from the Hate Crimes Bill voting pattern. I got conflicting information on my Senators (Georgia) on this that they voted for adding the measure to the DOD Authorization Bill but then they must have voted no on the whole Bill.
Is their any hope for Georgia Senators?

Tom Udall co-sponsored ENDA - 6/26/2007

Are you sure it's not Ben Nelson (D-NE) who's undecided? Bill Nelson has typically been very in favor of LGBTQ issues, while Ben Nelson has been typically very poor on them, outside of voting for ENDA things. My money is on Ben Nelson