The U.S. House voted down on Thursday an effort to exempt a prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors from a bill requiring a review and potential repeal of existing regulations.
The measure, introduced by gay Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), was a motion to recommit on the Searching for & Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessary Burdensome Act, or SCRUB Act. It was defeated on a largely party-line vote of 239-178.
The legislation would establish a commission to review federal regulations and identify those that should be repealed to lower the cost of regulation.
The bill, H.R. 1155, assigns the commission a goal of achieving a reduction of at least 15 percent in cumulative costs of regulation with a minimal reduction in overall effectiveness in regulation. Congressional consideration and enactment of a joint resolution would be required for repeal of a rule prior to agency implementation of repeal.
On the House floor, Cicilline said his motion to recommit wouldn’t kill the bill or send it back to committee, but allow the bill to proceed as amended. His measure would have exempted from the legislation the executive order President Obama signed in 2014 prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.
“Unfortunately, there are those who would continue to stand in the way of full equality for all Americans, who think that it is OK that hardworking men and women simply trying to support their families suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Cicilline said. “That is why it is important to support the president in his effort to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in federal contracting.”
Cicilline also promoted comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation he introduced last year in the House known as the Equality Act, saying “members of the LGBT community still face significant discrimination in employment as well as a variety of other important areas of life.”
“As many of my colleagues are aware, it is still legal in most states to fire a qualified person from a job that they are performing well simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Cicilline said. “Today, in many places across the country, a gay couple can get married on Saturday, post pictures online on Sunday, and get fired from their jobs or kicked out of their apartments on Monday. This is contrary to everything this country stands for, including the principle of equality upon which our country was founded.”
Responding to Cicilline’s motion to recommit on the House floor was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who instead of talking directly about anti-LGBT discrimination promoted the underlying bill as “a reasonable, commonsense approach to deal with regulations of the past.”
“There is no prohibition about putting regulations forward, but going back and looking, taking a scrub, if you will, and looking at past regulations, what this bill does is it simply creates a bipartisan commission — bipartisan — to go back and look at these, and they produce a report,” Chaffetz said. “That report comes to Congress, it has to pass both bodies, and it has to get the signature of the president. That is a very reasonable thing to do. So I urge ‘no’ on this motion to recommit, ‘yes’ on the passage.”
David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, slammed lawmakers for declining to take up the opportunity to protect Obama’s LGBT executive order.
“We’re disappointed that the House of Representatives refused to protect the landmark LGBT federal contractor executive order,” Stacy said. “This was a missed opportunity for a bipartisan majority to reaffirm the essential nature of these protections. We appreciate the leadership of Rep. David Cicilline and House Democrats in highlighting this critical protection.”
Even though the motion to recommit failed, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the legislation wouldn’t affect President Obama’s LGBT executive order. Spokespersons for Cicilline and Rep. Jason Sparks (R-Mo.), the sponsor of the bill, denied the SCRUB Act as it stands would threaten the directive.
The House passed the bill without the amendment on a party-line 245-174 vote. Bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting in favor of the legislation.
The White House has already issued a statement of administration policy against the legislation, saying President Obama would veto the bill if it came to his desk. Moreover, the bill seems unlikely to move forward in the Senate given the 60-vote requirement to overcome a filibuster.
A White House Office of Management & Budget spokesperson explained the administration opposes the legislation because it would create undue burdens on creating regulations, but declined to say whether it would impact Obama’s LGBT executive order.
“The president is concerned with any legislation that would jeopardize fairness and equality,” the spokesperson said. “H.R. 1155 would create needless regulatory and legal uncertainty; increase costs for businesses and state, local and tribal governments; and impede common‑sense protections for the American public. In terms of impact on specific executive orders, I don’t have a specific analysis for you at this time. But will reiterate that if the president were presented with the current version of H.R. 1155, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
The failure of the motion to recommit seems at odds with a successful vote in the House last year on an amendment reaffirming the prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors hired by the U.S. government for housing and transportation programs. That measure passed 241-184. A House aide said the vote was likely different this time around because lawmakers are more inclined to vote with parties on motions to recommit.
Among the Republicans voting “no” on Cicilline’s measure were each of the seven who are considered to support marriage equality: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and David Jolly (R-Fla.).
Former Rep. Brad Schneider, who lost to Dold in the previous election and is running to reclaim the seat in 2016, criticized the Republican for the vote in a statement.
“I’m profoundly disappointed in Congressman Bob Dold’s decision to put party politics ahead of protecting people from being fired simply for whom they love,” Schneider said. “Sadly this sort of vote is par for the course from Dold, who has said LGBT people should not ‘be given any special rights,’ and who has voted in support of marriage discrimination in the past. We need a strong pro-equal-rights advocate in Congress, and it is certainly not Mr. Dold.”
James Slepian, a Dold campaign spokesperson, rebuked Schneider for his criticism of the Republican’s vote against the motion to recommit.
“The only thing worse than the embarrassing incompetence that got Brad Schneider fired from Congress in the first place is watching him pathetically try to lie his way back to Washington with yet another fairy tale about Bob Dold’s record,” Slepian said.