ENDA: A Significant Silence in the Senate

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tiassa, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    ENDA: A Significant Silence in the Senate

    I'm not certain there's any moral to the story, as such, but there are diverse facets that might be of significance. In the House, Speaker Boehner has already pledged to bury ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In the Senate, where the bill is expected to pass after languishing for years, seven Republicans joined with the Democratic caucus to prevent a filibuster; the bill will get a vote, and is expected to pass.

    Meanwhile, Niels Lesniewski observes:

    There’s one thing that hasn’t been heard on the Senate floor as the chamber debates legislation to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation: any opposition.

    Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., noted the radio silence from senators opposed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act during his own floor speech on Tuesday.

    “I searched the Congressional Record of yesterday to look for one statement in opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There is not one. There was a specific opportunity given for anyone opposed to that measure to stand and speak,” Durbin said. “Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa supported it. He spoke eloquently from this desk yesterday before the vote, and then time was allocated to those in opposition. No one stood to speak. But then 30 voted against it.”

    Durbin was referencing the Monday evening vote to limit debate on taking up the measure, which would prohibit employment-based discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

    As of late Wednesday, the trend continued. Numerous senators in both parties had given passionate speeches in support of the protections, but not a single senator rose to speak on the other side.

    Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture on ENDA Wednesday, getting an agreement for a final vote Thursday afternoon.

    There are a number of arguments against ENDA being pushed by conservatives, including concerns about the effects on job creation and religious liberty (both points raised by Heritage Action for America). Not a single GOP senator has made the case, however.

    For instance, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama was among the Republicans voting against cloture on the motion to proceed. Sessions told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday that he had no intentions of making a speech in opposition to the bill.

    This highlights the difference, reminds why the Senate is referred to as the "Upper Chamber". That is to say, it is marginally less silly, and considerably more customary, than the House. And that is the thing: This is how it goes. Senate opponents have put up their good fight, and they recognize the numbers. At this point, railing against the legislation only gives future electoral challengers more arrows for their quivers. They've lost, and they know it, and of all the issues to get bruised and bloodied for, being on the losing end of an issue polling over seventy percent approval, and apparent majorities in every state, means a dignified withdrawal. To go down fighting, as House Republicans apparently intend to do?

    The Senate is so customary that the Majority Leader, gnashing his teeth over obvious and openly acknowledged abuse of the filibuster, is still desperate for a way to not "nuke" one of the most powerful customs in the chamber's arsenal. The House? Well ....

    House Democrats are fuming about a rule change adopted by Republicans just before the government shut down on Oct. 1, arguing it shows GOP leaders closed agencies intentionally.

    Under long-standing House rules, any member of the chamber can bring a measure to the floor. But Republicans altered the rule governing legislation to fund the government so that only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) holds the power to make such a motion.

    The practical effect of that change became apparent on Saturday, when Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tried to bring the Senate-passed continuing resolution (CR) to the floor, only to be shot down.

    "That motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who was presiding over the chamber at the time.

    The response didn't sit well with Van Hollen.

    "Why are the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?" he asked.

    The disagreement over how to reopen the government hinges on the scope of the chambers' spending proposals, with Democrats demanding the Senate's "clean" bill and most Republicans insisting any CR must make changes to ObamaCare.

    Under the standing rules of the House, any member can make a "privileged" motion "to dispose of any amendment" when a "stage of disagreement" between the House and Senate "has been reached on a bill or resolution." That privilege, though rarely used, offers a roundabout way for the minority party to force votes on the floor.

    But in the last hour of Sept. 30, Republicans on the House Rules Committee altered the rule governing the CR debate so that such a motion "may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee."

    Explaining the change, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) made no attempt to disguise the Republicans' motivations. The alteration was made, he said, to prevent Democrats from bringing the Senate's "clean" CR to the floor, just as Republicans were calling for a conference on the competing bills.


    That would be the same Rules Chairman Pete Sessions who said this week that, "Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate". As in, the House should effectively be a campaign arm of the Republican Party, according to the Rules Committee Chairman.

    The people's business, indeed.

    All of which makes the silence from Senate opponents of ENDA that much more apparent and significant. It is about as clear a contrast between normalcy and the new way as one can offer; even the hack bit about Benghazi, which is Sessions' explanation of why the House needs to abandon governing in favor of campaigning against Senate Democrats. I mean, even that is the sort of thing where the Republican Chairman of the Oversight Committee withheld transcripts from the public in order to "message" (lie about) them.

    That ENDA is about to move forward in the United States Senate is significant in its own right. The silence from Senate opponents of the bill, though, offers a fascinating glimpse into the contrast between what once was considered normal—e.g., knowing when a fight is lost and over—and what passes for public service among House Republicans.


    Lesniewski, Niels. "Radio Silence From ENDA Opponents on Senate Floor". #WGDB. November 7, 2013. Blogs.RollCall.com. November 7, 2013. http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/radio-silence-from-enda-opponents-on-senate-floor/

    Lax, Jeff and Justin Phillips. "Memo to Senate Republicans: Your constituents want you to vote for ENDA". The Monkey Cage. November 3, 2013. WashingtonPost.com. November 7, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...-your-constituents-want-you-to-vote-for-enda/

    Lillis, Mike. "Dems decry midnight rule change". The Hill. October 14, 2013. TheHill.com. November 7, 2013. http://thehill.com/homenews/house/328413-dems-decry-midnight-rule-change

    Fuller, Matt and Emma Dumain. "Sessions Eyes Elections—and Beyond". Roll Call. November 5, 2013. RollCall.com. November 7, 2013. http://www.rollcall.com/news/sessions_eyes_elections_and_beyond-228894-1.html

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