Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

ENDA In The Purple Tunnel of Doom

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 18, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Bink, employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Pelosi, purple tunnel of doom

You remember The Purple Tunnel of Doom from President Obama's Inauguration? Turns out some legislation is still waiting on that line.

Thumbnail image for purple tunnel of doom.jpgAdam Bink of Open Left says there is more trouble for ENDA, as well as the rest of the gay legislative agenda, after Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, told members of the House recently that she's not going to make them consider any controversial bills unless the Senate passes them first.

She reportedly informed Democratic lawmakers that the Senate will have to move first on a host of controversial issues before she brings them to the House floor.

The problem, of course, is that the Senate is faced with a huge logjam of legislation, as reported on by the New York Times. That light at the end of the tunnel is not getting any closer. This is starting to look a lot like the Purple Tunnel of Doom on the way to Obama's inauguration.

From The Hill:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has privately told her politically vulnerable Democratic members that they will not vote on controversial bills in 2010 unless the Senate acts first.

After a year of bruising legislative victories that some political analysts believe have done more to jeopardize her majority than to entrench it, Pelosi is shifting gears for the 2010 election.

The Speaker recently assured her freshman lawmakers and other vulnerable members of her caucus that a vote on immigration reform is not looming despite a renewed push from the White House and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The House will not move on the issue until the upper chamber passes a bill, Pelosi told the members.

But according to Democrats who have spoken to Pelosi, the Speaker has expanded that promise beyond immigration, informing Democratic lawmakers that the Senate will have to move first on a host of controversial issues before she brings them to the House floor.

Adam says: "I also feel this further jeopardizes ENDA, the House markup of which has already been postponed into next year." He discusses the possible origins of this "After You, Senator" strategy, and suggests that it is not the best strategy for getting legislation passed, even though Representatives are frustrated with the glacial pace of the Senate. You can read Adam's analysis here.

I completely agree with Adam, and I see it as yet another one in a long line of Congressional failures to see ENDA as important enough to move when the moving's possible. Chairman Miller of the House Committee on Education and Labor, where ENDA is stalled, is a close friend of Speaker Pelosi. Yes, I understand they're busy. Yes, I understand the leadership is behind ENDA. But being behind it is different from putting it at the top of the list, and this looks to me like the beginnings of political cover for not sticking to the "ENDA-Moves-In-January" song we heard last month.

"I'm in favor of cleaning out my attic, but that doesn't mean I'm going to do it anytime soon. In fact, I've been committed to attic-cleaning from the very beginning, and I will continue to demand attic-cleaning until the day I die. Nothing is more important than attic-cleaning. Except, perhaps, this TV show. I will do it right after this TV show, absolutely. Trust me. Your raising the fact that I didn't do it the last sixteen years is very hurtful, as everyone knows that I couldn't do it because of that bush in the way. Nag, nag, nag. You never thank me for the things I've done. I took the garbage out last year, isn't that enough?"

A politician's job is to say the right thing. But saying the right thing and doing the right thing are different. They say a lot of different things, to a lot of different people. Are we seeing the beginnings of the old razzle-dazzle?

What we need now is action, not words. Enough words.

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Sh**! Sh**! Sh**! Sh**! This is SO effing frustrating, I don't know what else to say.

Now, now, Abby, temper, temper. Don't tell me. Tell Nancy Pelosi.

The only chance for ENDA now is if it's part of the Great Pelosi Employment Bill - whatever that ends up looking like.

The DNC is going to take a real hammering in the 2010 mid-terms. Say goodbye to a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and they'll have a substantially reduced majority in the House too. Too early to tell how badly - but it looks like the Dems in the more marginal seats are very worried.

Unemployment is going to rise and rise again though, so an Emergency Employment Bill so long that no-one will have the time to read it (like every other such bill recently), and full of pork and handouts to friends, that will get passed so Congress can show they're "doing something about it" even if it's totally ineffective.

If we're lucky, ENDA will be included. If we're very lucky, it won't be traded off at the first opportunity to ensure passage.

Hopefully I'm being far too cynical. Anyone care to bet against this scenario though?

I think it is possible, barely, but possible, that the stars will line up and they'll kick this out of Committee without any crazy bathroom amendments by the end of January, vote on it in the House in the first two weeks of Februrary, and then the Senate attaches it to the jobs bill and it passes by the end of March. I'm willing to bet on it. A dollar. A U.S. dollar to an Australian dollar. But not more. You on?

On. And I really, really, really hope that I lose.

May 4, 2010

Pay to the Order of Zoe Brain $1.00

One Dollar and zero cents

Jillian Weiss

Please acknowledge receipt in satisfaction of the wager dated December 18, 2009

Dee Ann Scott | December 18, 2009 10:39 AM

A T inclusive ENDA will never pass in my lifetime.
Perhaps 20-30 years from now? Unlikely but after some of the Good Ole Boy hate mongers and inbred bigots die off and are replaced, the chances will improve slightly.

But as long as America remains a Theocracy, we are screwed. Someone needs to study up on that part about separation of church and state.

At this point, Dee Ann, it's looking like no ENDA's going to pass. As far as separation of church and state, that's the main tack I see the right-wingers taking. Any law that says I can't kick you into the gutter and spit on you violates my freedom of religion.

Jillian asked:

Are we seeing the beginnings of the old razzle-dazzle?

No, she is simply telling House Members that LGBT issues cannot pass the Senate, so there is no reason for the House to act. It's not just ENDA - all gay issues that cannot pass the Senate.

The solution is to replace some Senators or change their constituents minds. Sooner or later, we'll actually have to do that work. Just like cleaning out the attic.

My hope is that if Pelosi follows through as expected here that the LGBT community of San Francisco works to primary her and do whatever they can to remove her from office. Even if not successful, she should be held publicly accountable for her lies and repeated betrayals of our community's interests. Voters should understand exactly what they are voting for when they vote for Nancy Pelosi.

Given her constituency and her behavior, there is no greater hypocrite in the entire US Congress, and that's saying something.

So, what exactly can Pelosi do about the 45 anti-Gay US Senators? Yell at them? Threaten them? Shame them?

It is our fault that we have 45 anti-Gay US Senators. Our fault. And, we continue to do nothing about it. Well, except blame Nancy Pelosi.

I'm beginning to think there isn't anyone left to blame.

Andrew, you say we have 45 anti-gay Senators. Not true. Your numbers are all wrong. I'm not saying it's in the bag, but your point is simply wrong and not based on the facts.

There are 44 co-sponsors, plus public commitments from 8 Senators: McCaskill, Baucus, Tester, Dorgan, Ben Nelson, Reid, Webb, and Warner.

That's 52.

We haven't heard from the following 4 Senators, but they are likely to vote yes based on previous voting records: Carper, Bayh, Johnson, Rockefeller.

That's 56.

The following 9 are possible yeses: Murkowski, Lincoln, Pryor, Bill Nelson, Lugar, Hagan, Conrad, Voinovich and Byrd.

We only need 4 of the 9 to win.

Your numbers are all wrong. It's all here: http://bit.ly/14TDll

And that goes for your little dog, too.


You have 44 anti-Gay Senators, I have 45. 2 or 3 are possibly "toss-ups," but likely NOT supportive.

LGBT issues cannot pass this Senate. Perhaps we should focus on changing that, not creating false hope.

Andrew, who taught you math? I have 56 likely yes votes and 9 possibles, which is 65 Senators. That makes 35 "anti-gay" Senators, or at least not likely to vote in favor of ENDA. Your figure of 45 anti-gay Senators is incorrect.


We shouldn't bore the readers with "math," but the truth is you believe you have 56 Pro-LGBT US Senators. Then, you start "wishing" for more - calling them "likely," etc.

So, there ARE 44 or 45 that are Anti-Gay. You can suggest all you want that they're "possible" or "maybe possible," but some of us prefer to simply tell the truth.

Pelosi knows the truth.

I understand your point here, but you're drastically loosing credibility when you say that anything other than a confirmed yes vote is "anti-gay." If you want the 44 number, then point out that there are 44 senators unwilling to publicly support ENDA, 35 of whom seem dead set against it. That's chilling enough as it is. But when we know that 9 of them have simply made no public statements on ENDA, calling them "anti-gay" with no further explanation or justification just seems like you're twisting the facts in order to prove a point.

Andrew twisting the facts? Remember he gets paid by the post. Let's stop enriching him.

It IS 44 or 45 Anti-LGBT Senators, Tobi. It's not unclear, either. To continue to suggest that they are likely or possible is deception. Giving people "false hope" is perhaps one of the worst things our advocates-for-hire do. This continued lying about political "possibilities," instead of facing political realities, is done to keep the money flowing to politicians, non-profits, lobbyists and political parties. It's time to wake up.

T2inDC: If you have something of value to share, please do so. I know you believe the Democrats are going to save you (with NO evidence or precedent), but engaging in conversation requires honest, objective comments. I really don't have a problem with your wishful thinking until you use it to mislead people.

I suppose that argument makes some logical sense. But still, you need to make the argument for people to understand it. Look, it's easy:

"The politicians have all been hounded for months to try and get their position on it. If they are refusing to publicly take a position, or even publicly acknowledge that the are undecided, then they are obviously just trying to hide the fact that they are against ENDA."

That is so much more genuine, not to mention convincing, then:

We shouldn't bore the readers with "math," but the truth is you believe you have 56 Pro-LGBT US Senators. Then... there ARE 44 or 45 that are Anti-Gay.

It helps to explain your leap from "unstated position on ENDA" to "anti-gay." It's more logical, convincing, genuine, and it allows for folks to analyze and break down the assumptions being made, for example, by pointing out the possibility that politicians holding out on a public statement could just as easily be hiding their support from conservative constituents as hiding their opposition from us. Perhaps they'd vote for it if they really had to, but are hoping that Pelosi bottles it up so that they don't have to. Perhaps they'd abstain from the vote.

Then you can explain why you think those possibilities are unlikely. We could all benefit from a deeper thinking through of the possibilities. Relying on unstated assumptions or warrant-less arguments cuts the discussion off before it begins.

I have shared this information before Tobi, and you didn't respond. It is the result of a great deal of research - that I have purchased in the last 9 months. It isn't about a Senator's position on ENDA, but rather their beliefs about homosexuality and the beliefs of their constituents.

If a Senator has a strong religious conviction (weighted by particular Faiths) and/or their constituents are very religious (based on religious "intensity" in each State) it is very clear which Senators are Anti-gay. This information is coupled with ALL their public comments (not just recent ones) and their voting records.

This work is now being done for House members and certain State Legislatures. The program is about 95% accurate - prior to adding public positions and voting records. While there may be a few exceptions, I have seen very few.

The bottom line is we must either change the Senator or change the minds of their constituents. That's an effort that must begin in 2010 or we're in for another long drought. It looks like it will only get worse, unless we wake up and begin doing the real work of "change."

There is no "political solution" in the near term. It would be better to refocus our attention and do some real work towards creating our equality.

"Equality is a moral imperative." - Candidate Barack Obama.

"As president, I will place the weight of my administration behind a fully inclusive Employment Non Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." - Candidate Barack Obama.

"America is ready to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. All that is required is leadership. That work should have started long ago. It will start when I take office." - Candidate Barack Obama.

"I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans." - Candidate Barack Obama.

"Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership." - Candidate Barack Obama.

Conversely and Perversely, Rahm recently stated that he has the Progressive Democrats in check. The great moral voice of Liberalism(Senator Kennedy) is dead, and the White House now uses hs name without following his beliefs.

At minimum, she can insist on the bill coming up for debate and a vote. That's the very least we should be able to expect from a Representative of the city with the highest percentage of LGBT residents in the entire country, don't you think?

Doing that would be encouraging Pelosi to demand that our pro-Gay members risk political suicide. Perhaps, she is just trying to protect our existing supporters.

You would be happy about "protections," right?

It isn't just ENDA, it's everything. It's perverse how far to the right the Senate is (based on actions, not rhetoric) compared to the rest of America.

The problems are structural, and unless we deal with that, we can't deal with actual policy. Unfortunately, most people think the issue is the culture war, partisan bickering, or actual debate on the substance of policy. Those are distractions. What's broken is that the most we can do is vote the bums out and replace them with more bums.

I really don't have any idea other than third-party at this point. And we know how well that works in the US.

Alex says:

What's broken is that the most we can do is vote the bums out and replace them with more bums.

If we're lazy we can keep changing "bums," as you've said. But, one of these days we should get to work changing minds, the minds of these Bums' constituents. Bums are all about political survival.

Andrew, I agree with you that changing constituents' minds is key. What are your suggestions for doing that?

We should start by letting go of our bad romance with politics. We should refocus our movement on changing minds. That can only be done with conversation, one-on-one (neighbors, associates and even strangers) and with the support of good media campaigns. Media campaigns that re-brand "gay" and sell "equality."

WE need to eventually admit it is our job to create our equality. Once we do that, we can change the constituents that actually own the votes you keep trying to count. Politicians do what their constituents want, but we ignore the constituents.

It's time to change our minds, too. We need to be painfully honest about where we are and how we can actually get what we really want - equality. HRC has spent +$500 million on a political solution. If we look at all the money we have spent on our "movement," (during the last 40 years) it is $2-3 billion. That's a lot of money and we have very little verifiable equality to show for it.

I believe the LGBT Community has a tremendous amount of talent and creativity - we just seem to be stuck in the past. We're using old ideas in a new world. We need a new strategy and plan that, at the very least, recognizes that reality.

I don't think "replace with more bums" or a third party is the only option. Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic primary in 2006 and only won because of a quirk of a "sore loser" state law that exists in Connecticut, but not many other states. Nate Silver has demonstrated how Arlen Specter's voting behavior has dramatically improved since he received a primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak- hardly a bum, if he gets elected. The same with Rep. Jane Harman in 2006. Other challenges are happening at the state level in New York State. Primaries are one of the most effective, if not the most effective, influence on legislative behavior.

The structural problem I see is that there are some electeds (Aubertine in New York State) where that tool is not viable.

Adam, I think your strategy is eminently sensible. The "throw the bums out" approach is born of frustration, rather than a real attempt to solve the problem of a few bad apples who are spoiling the bunch. I'm not one who generally likes the "few bad apples" theory, and there are systemic problems. But if we had a few more seats in the Senate with real Democrats, instead of the faux-Democrats we have now in those seats, we wouldn't be in this fix.

"But if we had a few more seats in the Senate with real Democrats, instead of the faux-Democrats we have now in those seats, we wouldn't be in this fix."

I agree. We need to support those Dems and Reps. that support us. We are bipartisian on ENDA, and we need to weed out those that oppose our equality.

Any chance we get a spreadsheet of the Senate? I think 32 Senators may be up for reelection in 2010. Which are pro LGBT and which are not. We have to start to actively pursue eliminating the anti equality folks.

I agree with Rebecca. At least bring it up in your own "house", debate it and vote on it. But don't not act because of the Senate! Also, as for the original post, I don't think it is just now becoming like the purple tunnel thing. I feel it has been that way most of this year with nothing but empty promises from Obama and Congress. LGBT people keep trying to blame one or the other and you know what? It is both. They suck pure and simple, and nothing is getting done. We have to vote some of them out and hope for the best with Obama in the next three years since we are now stuck with him. (and no money to the DNC) I still wish Hillary had won. I truly think things would be better. Not sure how much better but could not be much worse.

This reminds me of a few lines from the movie "The American President" which I will paraphrase, to make it more relevant to the current situation.

Our current political representatives are too worried about keeping their jobs and not worried (anywhere near) enough about doing their jobs.

Dr. Weiss:
Thank you for all the work you are doing on this.

Also, thanks for the transphobia articles. At least one person has learned something from them.

I keep wondering why we should worry about maintaining the big majority of 'Democrats', especially in the Senate--what the hell has that accomplished so far, on much of anything? It is certainly better in many ways than the Bush years, but the '60-vote' bloc in the Senate has been useless, and the Democratic White House has certainly fallen far, far below even my lowest expectations (and I mean on an overall progressive agenda, not just gay-family issues). Oh, and tho very much wanted President Obama to win, and rejoiced that he did, I always took him at his word when he said he was against same-sex marriage. For whatever it's worth...

Air America made an interesting connection between the Simpson appointment and ENDA yesterday, and referenced this "ENDA In The Purple Tunnel of Doom" post: click here