ENDA prospects apparently gone
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is not on the agenda for Senate floor action for the next few weeks, prior to the August 9 recess.
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate will take up work on as many as nine matters during the next month, but none of those are ENDA.
The nine include the Defense authorization bill, which incorporates language aimed at repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; and the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also include Wall Street reform, energy (including oil spills), and the extension of unemployment benefits.
The Hill, a newspaper reporting on Congress, said Senate Democratic leaders met Tuesday and, in consultation with President Obama, decided to focus on these latter three bills during the next two weeks. It also suggested the three bills were chosen, at least in part, for their ability to bolster support for Democrats during the mid-term elections in November.
Congress returns from its summer recess on September 13, and The Hill said “Senators acknowledge…little legislating will be possible” between September 13 and elections.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged the administration’s deep concern about the mid-term elections. He told NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, “there is no doubt there are enough [Congressional] seats in play [in November’s mid-term elections] that could cause Republicans to gain control” of one or both chambers.
A number of recent polls show Republicans gaining support over Democrats among voters. A July 7-11 poll of 1,288 registered voters by ABC/Washington Post found that 47 percent would vote for the Republican in their Congressional district, while 46 percent would vote for the Democrat. Sixty-two percent said they were inclined to “look around” for other candidates than their current representative in Congress. Other polls showed similar findings.
There are 255 Democrats and 178 Republicans in the House; 56 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and 2 Independents in the Senate.
In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said ENDA and a measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would get floor votes this year. She reassured a group of LGBT leaders that, while a measure to repeal DADT may move first, ENDA would also move under her watch.
The DADT repeal measure did get a floor vote by the House in May and passed; it also passed a Senate committee –both as part of an annual Defense spending bill. The full Senate is expected to consider the measure before the August 9 recess.
But the dwindling number of legislative days and the growing number of urgent legislative and political priorities have squeezed ENDA out.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said Tuesday, “Passing ENDA this year is a top priority for the Speaker, but we believe that passing ENDA before DADT repeal has been finalized, jeopardizes both initiatives.”
“Until then,” said Hammill, “we should encourage the Senate to develop a course for ENDA to ensure that when the House passes the legislation, the Senate can move quickly to send the legislation to the President’s desk.”
Rep. Barney Frank, chief sponsor of the bill, could not be reached by deadline this week.