A group of 10 House members comprised of five Republicans and five Democrats is amping up the pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring to the floor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
In a Dec. 3 missive, the bipartisan group of lawmakers — led by gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — call on Boehner to “bring this timely and commonsense legislation to a vote” before the end of the 113th Congress.
“Job discrimination against any American creates an uneven playing field that runs contrary to the basic notion of equality and our economic efficiency,” the lawmakers write. “What matters most is not that we share the exact same beliefs as our co-workers or employees, but that we take pride in our work, respect our co-workers and customers, and get the job done.”
The five Republicans who signed the letter are the five Republican co-sponsors of the bill: Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).
On the other side of the aisle, the five Democrats who signed the letter are Maloney and Sinema as well as gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
The legislation already passed the Senate last month in a historic 64-32 bipartisan vote. Ten Republicans voted with the Democratic caucus in approving the bill.
In the push to bring it to a House vote, proponents of the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House, have said sufficient votes are present for passage if the legislation comes to the floor.
The lead signers of the letter — Maloney and Sinema — had previously incurred the wrath of progressive LGBT leaders for joining the House Republicans in votes over Obamacare that led to the shutdown of the federal government.
In remarks about economy mobility at the Center for American Progress on Wednesday, President Obama encouraged passage of ENDA as he rattled off a series of legislative items he supports.
“It’s time to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so workers can’t be fired for who they are or who they love,” Obama said.
Despite these efforts, a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act seems in doubt. Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, said in response to the letter, “The Speaker has been clear on this issue.”
In fact, momentum on the bill seems to have stalled in the weeks following the Senate vote. Although the bill was gaining supporters in the House at the time of the Senate vote and now has 201 sponsors, the latest additions are all Democrats and no additional co-sponsors have been added since Nov. 18.
LGBT workers are apparently caught in a standoff between the White House and Congress as Boehner has consistently said he opposes the legislation and President Obama continues to withhold an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.
Asked by the Washington Blade during his news conference last week whether the growth of co-sponsors demonstrates the need for allowing a vote on the bill, Boehner reiterated he sees no need for ENDA.
“As I said last week, I’m opposed to discrimination in any case, but I don’t believe that we need additional frivolous litigation in the employment area,” Boehner said.