This afternoon, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which Democrats had hoped to pass before the end of the Congress. Given the Republican takeover of the House, however, the issue has likely stalled for the foreseeable future, and so Johnson asked Gibbs if the President would continue to push for ENDA passage in the Senate or if he would be willing to discuss it in the context of jobs during the State of the Union. Gibbs promised the administration would try to “make progress” on the issue:
GIBBS: I think there is 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….we will certainly work to make progress on those fronts in obviously a much more challenging Congress…. I think you will see the President continue to push on a whole host of those issues.
Democrats in Congress had assured advocates that they would move on ENDA, but ultimately failed to make any real progresson the issue. In April of 2010, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told a group of gay activists that the House Education and Labor Committee will take up ENDA within several days and that the bill will likely receive a quick vote in the full House within weeks. By May, Democratic aids were assuring groups that the vote on the resolution would occur sometime before the November elections. “It’ll be right before we leave…to energize the base,” they said, predicting that the vote would occur as early as the second week in June or mid July. “When the opportunity is there, we want to bring that up, and I hope that will be soon,” Speaker Pelosi said. “We’ll see what people want to do.” Still, she promised a House vote by the end of the year.
In June, however, the situation began to look even more perilous. Pelosi said she would not bring up ENDA until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed and Democrats in the Senate began to complain that they were not ready to take-up the bill. “This issue is just not ready for the Senate,” an LGBT advocate and political insider told The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld on condition of anonymity. “The procedural aspects of debate would make it way too easy for a [Sen. Jim] DeMint or a [Sen. Tom] Coburn to demagogue.” “The fact that there’s not a path in the Senate makes it a very heavy lift,” the source said. “It’s not enough to say that Pelosi needs to ram this through. The reason she isn’t able to ram it through is because members don’t want to vote for something that is politically difficult like this issue.” The bill had 45 Senate cosponsors and 199 House cosponsors.
Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner offers some more details on why ENDA was never brought up for a vote.