White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday the Obama administration would “work to make progress” on advancing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the current Congress despite Republican control of the U.S. House.
Asked by the Washington Blade whether the president expects passage of the legislation in U.S. Senate, where Democrats still hold a majority, Gibbs identified ENDA as among “a whole host things that the president has made part of his campaign.”
“We talked about DOMA a few days ago, ENDA, and other things that are important to build off the progress of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Gibbs said. “I think those continue to be priorities of the president’s and we will certainly work to make progress on those fronts in obviously a much more challenging Congress over the course of the next two years.”
As it was introduced in the 111th Congress, ENDA would prohibit job discrimination against LGBT people in most situations in the public and private workforce. In 2007, a version of ENDA passed the U.S. House that contained protections only on the basis of sexual orientation.
Even with Republicans in control of the House, where movement of the legislation is unlikely, Gibbs acknowledged that passage in the Senate would have value as a way to build momentum to complete legislative action at a later time.
“I think there’s no doubt that whenever you get something done in one [chamber], you’re certainly seeing it come to fruition,” he said.
Gibbs declined to comment on whether Obama would address ENDA in the State of the Union address, saying he wasn’t “going to get into previewing” the speech. The address is set to happen on Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.
ENDA in the last Congress saw no movement in either the House or the Senate. In the House, there was speculation that opponents would use a maneuver called the motion to recommit on the floor to target the transgender language and derail the legislation. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t bring ENDA up for a vote until legislative action was complete on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The complete exchange between the Blade and Gibbs follows:
Washington Blade: One of President Obama’s campaign promises back in 2008 was passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide workplace protections to gay and transgender Americans. Is this something the president expects to see passed over the course of the 112th Congress at least in the Senate, where Democrats still have control?
Robert Gibbs: Look, I think there’s a whole host of things that the president has made part of his campaign. We talked about DOMA a few days ago, ENDA, and other things that are important to build off the progress of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I think those continue to be priorities of the president’s and we will certainly work to make progress on those fronts in obviously a much more challenging Congress over the course of the next two years.
Blade: But in the Senate, where Democrats still have control is he expecting passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act?
Gibbs: Again, I think you will see the president continue to push on whole host of those issues.
Blade: Does the administration see value in passing ENDA in one chamber of Congress to build momentum for complete passage at a later time?
Gibbs: Yeah, I think there’s no doubt that whenever you get something done in one, you’re certainly seeing it come to fruition, so, yes, obviously.
Blade: Will the president address ENDA in any context during the State of the Union address? Perhaps as a jobs bill?
Gibbs: I’m not going to get into previewing the State of the Union today.