Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is one of just seven House Republicans who has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — the bill to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans. But as the GOP leadership continues to keep the bill bottled up in committee, Ros-Lehtinen is refusing to use a parliamentary technique to force a floor vote on it.
The Washington Blade surveyed the seven GOP co-sponsors last week about whether they would sign a discharge petition — a parliamentary maneuver that allows a majority of members of Congress to bring any bill to the floor, even if the leadership opposes doing so. Six declined to comment; a Ros-Lehtinen spokesman said the Congresswoman “will not be signing a discharge petition as it is a partisan political tool.”
But while Ros-Lehtinen may now believe using the discharge petition to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination is partisan politics, she was quite willing to use the technique when her party was in the minority between 2007 and 2010. Over that span, she signed more than a discharge petitions to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to prevent the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to repeal Washington, DC’s gun laws, to gut biofuel requirements, and an array of other things. She even signed a petition aimed at establishing a 72-hour waiting period on all House bills — a promise that the GOP has repeatedly broken since regaining the majority in 2011. Ros-Lehtinen’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the distinction between those measures and ENDA.
A bipartisan super-majority in the U.S. Senate voted, 64 to 32, to pass ENDA last November. But Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has adamantly refused to bring it up in the U.S. House of Representatives, falsely claiming that anti-LGBT discrimination is already illegal. Currently 29 states allow employers to fire someone for his or her sexual orientation — 33 allow employment discrimination based on gender identity.
Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Charlie Dent (R-PA), the bill’s other two House Republican co-sponsors who served under a Democratic majority, also signed multiple discharge petitions over that time. No ENDA discharge petition has yet been filed with the House Clerk.
Ros-Lehtinen and the two other House Republicans who are co-sponsors of a comprehensive immigration reform bill have also refused to join 191 House Democrats in signing a discharge petition to bring that proposal to the floor. While it is rare for members of the majority party to sign a discharge petition to overrule their own party leadership, it does happen on occasion. In 2002, 20 House Republicans joined with 197 Democrats and 1 independent to force a vote on campaign finance reform — one of a few dozen successful petitions. Just last year, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) signed a similar petition regarding a budget resolution and six very conservative Republicans signed a petition to force a vote on a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack in Benghazi.