Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 30, 2015

7 Republicans Lift ENDA Past Filibuster (Updated)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Before the Senate procedural vote on ENDA, Kirk delivered his first floor speech since suffering from a stroke almost two years ago. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:49 p.m. | The Senate cleared the first procedural hurdle Monday on legislation prohibiting employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The Senate agreed on a 61-30 vote to bring up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, championed in the Senate by Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Seven Republicans joined all present Democrats in favor. GOP senators who supported moving forward with the bill included Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

With supporters Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, not present, the vote initially appeared as if it would fall short. The drama was heightened by a small number of Republicans concerned about religious exemptions in the bill.

Collins called Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., into the GOP cloakroom to broker a deal to get the needed votes, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. And with supporters hovering one vote shy of the 60 needed, Portman and Toomey emerged to provide the 60th and 61st votes.

Portman secured an agreement with Democrats to receive votes on two of his amendments to the legislation, an aide confirmed. One of the amendments, which Merkley said is also backed by Ayotte, would reinforce the religious exemption language to ensure that religious organizations would not be burdened unduly by the law. Merkley said he would support the Portman-Ayotte measure.

“The bill’s religious exemption ensures that churches and other religious employers may continue to operate according to their deeply held beliefs. I had concerns, however, that ENDA could leave the door open for the government to discriminate against these very groups on the basis of those beliefs,” Portman said in a statement. “I am pleased that the bill’s authors have decided to allow a vote on my amendment to prevent retaliation against religious organizations. I am also pleased that the authors were willing to support my amendment to make other changes to the bill’s introductory section that highlight and explain the importance of religious liberty.”

Toomey also was assured a vote on an amendment to address his concerns.

“I believe the Employment Non-Discrimination Act contains very important provisions,” he said in a statement. “However, I also believe it should be improved, especially as it pertains to religious organizations. We must strive to reach the appropriate balance between protecting workers and protecting religious freedom. I voted to move forward with debate on ENDA with the hope that the Senate will take up amendments — including one that I plan to offer — to address this important aspect of the proposed law.”

Toomey’s amendment would broaden the definition of religious organizations exempted from the law. The amendment would need 60 votes for adoption and is not expected to clear that hurdle.

Before the vote, Kirk delivered his first floor speech since suffering from a stroke almost two years ago, to urge his colleagues to support the civil rights bill.

“I’ve risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute,” Kirk said. “I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure. In the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirsken and Abraham Lincoln, men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.”

The legislation seems likely to pass the Senate this week, with Heller coming out as the 60th declared supporter earlier Monday.

It’s unclear what will happen to the legislation now, with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, already saying he won’t support it but feeling pressure to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed to the Violence Against Women Act as a bill that Boehner didn’t support that ultimately passed the House anyway. Though some have argued President Barack Obama could move without congressional help to establish a federal anti-discrimination standard, Carney said the administration’s preference is still for Congress to approve the bill first.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

  • mikem42

    Interesting that Toomey voted in favor, since that isn’t in his DNA. He got enough warnings lately from his home state constituency, that a vote against this just wasn’t going to help him come next election. He is right of Attila the Hun, but wants this job soooo badly that he flipped. Politics! Hoping Pennsylvanians see through his duplicity.

    • MrSmith

      He wants ‘good media’, and this is a highly desirable demographic for advertisers.
      And advertisers decide what the media thinks- they pay the bills.

    • teapartyidiots

      He wants to survive the 2016 presidential year Tea Bagger bloodbath.

      • mikem42

        Lordy, I hope you are right.

  • DM

    First, senators Ayotte, Collins, Hatch, Heller, Kirk, Portman
    and Toomey need to stop identifying themselves as Republicans. They
    obviously have far more in common with their secular humanistic/atheistic
    socialistic friends on the other side of the aisle. Second, to include
    legal protections for immoral/debased/questionable behavior, of whatever
    variety, in a non-discrimination measure is simply going too far. After
    all, once you extend legal protections for one group’s behaviors don’t you also,
    as a natural consequence, have to provide similar protections for the behaviors
    practiced by others? Third, by identifying immoral/debased/questionable
    behaviors as a legally protected “right” has not the federal
    government now established itself as the arbiter and grantor of rights as
    opposed to our Creator—as recognized in our nation’s founding and supporting
    documents? This is to say, shouldn’t our nation’s motto now be “In
    the federal government we trust” rather than “In God we trust”?
    In other words, doesn’t this serve to undermine/subvert/replace our
    nation’s Judeo-Christian foundation, wisely selected by the Founders, with
    secular humanism/atheistic socialism? Doesn’t this elevate the so-called
    wisdom of frail, flawed and fickle human beings above God’s tried, true, and
    changeless wisdom? By encouraging humanity to embrace and practice its
    baser passions, as opposed to embracing and practicing God-honoring values,
    principles and morals, in tune with His creative design, will and purpose,
    doesn’t this serve to send our society in a downward spiritual and moral
    direction rather than in an upward spiritual and moral direction? Indeed,
    doesn’t this alter America’s course from being the “shining city on the
    hill”—pointing the way to God-given freedom and its attendant blessings,
    to becoming, instead, just another decaying, immoral and spiritually dead
    society destined for history’s ash heap?

    • spiritubrianus

      I put my trust in God also, but when it come to something like this, I think your view that God is against this is a dubious claim. The church is divided on this question, and when that is the case, we need to be very careful. Why? Well, God might just be trying to communicate with us? Maybe God is trying to tell us that when the ancient scholars wrote down Leviticus, they got it wrong. God may be trying to tell us that. It’s happened before. After all, I don’t think you believe God stopped trying to communicate with us 2,000 years ago when the canon of the Bible was agreed upon. Christians got it wrong of slavery, on the status of women being subservient, etc. It seems reasonable to me that a lot of Christians are getting it wrong on this. If your view is correct that God is with you on this, then the gay side cannot win. On the other hand, if God is not with you on this, then you cannot win. Preliminary indications are that you are going to lose.

      • DM

        Spiritubrianus: If you study God’s Holy Word you will find that God Himself, in no way, shape or form, ever endorsed such sins as polygamy, slavery, the devaluation of women, etc. Instead, these are the results of humanity’s sinfulness (rebellion) against God’s creative design, will and purpose, and thus, too, His eternal values, principles and morals. Indeed, when He came to us in the human form of Jesus of Nazareth you’ll note that He lived in complete unity with the teachings of His Holy Word, on our behalf, including His definition of marriage provided in creation (i.e., the union of one man and one woman–not that He married, but when asked about marriage Jesus never swayed from the definition given at creation), and that He came to set free, through His sinless life, His vicarious death and His glorious resurrection, those held in bondage by their sin and, too, to the extent that others submit their will to His will and way, the sin of others. Hence, when we go against His holy standard by willfully, deliberately endorsing and encouraging sin–any sin–we are in fact in danger of committing the unpardonable sin (i.e., blasphemy against God’s Holy Spirit). Obviously, such a step is never wise or good for those committing it. I can’t speak for you, but I want to remain a friend and follower of God–my Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and greatest Friend–not His enemy.

        • spiritubrianus

          As a brother in Christ, DM, you need to be a little more humble. I think we in the church need to find our way around this issue and not be so judgemental. Judgement is God’s prerogative, not ours. I am sure you are dedicated to the cause of Christ as I am. We will never advance this cause unless we are open to change.

          • DM

            Spiritubrianus: Hmm . . . Since when did speaking the truth in love, which is what tried to do, become considered being judgmental? Am I critical of those who choose to rebel against God and His ways after they have the truth shared with them? You bet. Judgmental? No. That, as you correctly say, is God’s area. As for change: there’s no room for change when it comes to God’s creative design, will and purpose or His eternal values, principles and morals: as expressed through His creation, His Holy Word–both His written Word, the Bible, and His Living Word, Jesus Christ, and as attested to through the work of His Holy Spirit. I always try to work for win/win, but there is no win/win where sin/evil is involved–never.

      • bun yip

        I couldn’t agree more. Gay marriage etc. is going to happen, it has the popular support, and fighting it is only going to make more people vote against Republicans.

        The issue also doesn’t affect 95% of the country so it’s time to let it go. Stop worrying about this one small issue (that happens to get Democrats elected over Republicans in purple states) and focus all the attention on the economy and health care.

  • lordhelmet

    A more important civil rights bill would be to protect citizens against politically motivated harassment by the IRS. I don’t think Obama would sign it though since he’s the one most guilty of it.

  • SC

    For several decades we’ve heard increased association of gay rights with battles for racial and gender equality. A desire for homosexual sex (we’re told) is an inborn condition, not a choice. The aim is to get the public to view gays as they would people of race. If successful, those who morally oppose gay marriage will be wrongly viewed as hateful racists who oppose the civil rights of an oppressed minority.

    Let’s stop with the hateful name-calling and projection of hate on everyone who disagrees with gay marriage. Inflammatory labeling will only create civil unrest. This was pure political pandering from a body of individuals who ought
    to know better. There is no need for special additional laws for gays. Just
    enforce the ones on the books as they ought to be.

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