Nancy Pelosi is wrong about ENDA

This weekend at the Netroots Nation blog/progressive Netroots conference, once- and future- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA – a law banning job discrimination against gay and trans people) – somehow fell victim to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Don’t believe it.

First, what Pelosi said, then a little look back at the history. From Chris Johnson at the Blade:

“The community came to us and they said, ‘We feel more enthusiasm for your doing the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ first — well, second, because we had done hate crimes, now ENDA would be next,” Pelosi said. “They said, no, we wanted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ And that, because we have to depend on outside mobilization and all the rest, and, of course, all four — that would be hate crimes, that would be ENDA, that would ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ that would be marriage equality — would be the four. We were trying to do them in the order of how we thought we could get them done fastest. We thought ENDA; they thought ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal.”

Well, not exactly.

Granted, we’ll never know what was discussed privately by then-Speaker Pelosi and “the community” (aka HRC), but we can certainly check the record and see what was happening publicly.  And publicly, neither DADT nor ENDA were going anywhere, fast.  In fact, a number of us were leading the jeering squad going after the President for dragging his feet on DADT, ENDA, and DOMA (remember, the administration was  still defending DOMA at the time, and using Bush administration legal briefs to do it).  So it really wasn’t an either-or situation.  It was more like a neither-nor.

Joe Sudbay sent me a nifty little timeline that GetEqual has on their site, detailing the history of DOMA from the beginning, but in particularly since 2009.  And what you see in that history is lots and lots of promises of upcoming House mark-ups, and then no mark-ups.  (The mark-up is when a House committee  votes on a proposed bill, and then if it makes it “out of committee,” it gets sent to the full House to be voted on.  It’s a lot more complicated than that, especially in the House, but that’s close enough.)

Let me share you some examples of that ever-delayed mark-up of ENDA in the House, and the larger “it’s coming really really soon” promises we kept getting. DADT had nothing to do with this for a good year of unexplained delays:

ENDA mark-up or full passage in 2009

May 18, 2009 — DNC Treasurer and chief gay fundraiser chastises the LGBT community for being impatient, saying, “If we get hate crimes this Summer or Fall (2009) and ENDA this Fall or Winter (2009), lets not spend too much of our energy angry that we didn’t get them this past Spring (2009).”

November 10, 2009 — Rep. Barney Frank says ENDA is “in very good shape,” would be marked up before year’s end, and voted on in the House “in December or in February, with the Senate voting in the Spring.”

November 10, 2009 — HRC lobbyist says she “remains hopeful that a House vote on ENDA could take place before year’s end.

November 16, 2009 — White House LGBT liaison says “were working on ENDA” and “you’re going to see markup in the House next week on ENDA.

November 16, 2009 — House Education and Labor Committee announces markup on ENDA is postponed indefinitely and Hill staffer claims it will be “rescheduled after the Thanksgiving holiday.”

November 17, 2009 — It is reported that the House Committee vote was postponed “so that lawyers could adjust the legal language regarding issues of disparate impact, double recovery and attorneys fee.” HRC lobbyist says “our understanding is that the committee lawyers wanted a few more days to look at several of the outstanding issues” and “hopefully we’ll be able to see a markup after Thanksgiving and before the end of the year.” Rep. Barney Frank suggests that a full House vote “might not take place until February of next year.”

November 18, 2009 — Another House Committee markup is postponed.

Oops, we’ll pass ENDA in 2010

December 4, 2009 — HRC learns that ENDA will not be considered by the House this year and says “delays are absolutely unacceptable” and “calls for an end to further delays.”

January 5, 2010 — Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Tammy Baldwin blame the delay of ENDA on the healthcare reform debate and say “later this month the legislation will undergo markup” and added that they both had “spoken with Speaker Pelosi and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and were confident that the bill would receive a vote.”

March 23, 2010 — Rep. Barney Frank says he told House Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller “now, its our turn” since healthcare reform had passed and then says that a vote on ENDA “may not come this week” afterall, but he “expects a votes as soon as the come back” from recess on April 9.

March 30, 2010 — Rep. Jared Polis says “we have the votes to pass ENDA in the house and we hope to bring it before the committee I serve on within the month—by the end of April” and added that “once it passes the committee, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks-a week or two-to schedule it to the floor.

April 13, 2010 — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says that the House will likely take up ENDA this year and that, even though it includes gender identity, it is less controversial now than it has been in the past.

April 15, 2010 — Speaker Nancy Pelosi says “The committee of jurisdiction, the Education & Labor Committee is working very hard to have the strongest possible bill and vote when we come to the floor. I believe that it will be soon, and as soon as they are ready, Leader Hoyer and I agreed that it will come to the floor. So, I think it will be pretty soon.”

April 18, 2010 — Rep. Barney Frank says legislation aimed at ending employment discrimination against LGBT people will be marked up in committee “this week or next” and then added that “the speaker has promised that we will get this done fairly quickly.”

April 28, 2010 — Two weeks after another missed vote promised by Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Tammy Baldwin put her ”goal” for the timeline at ”the next couple weeks.”

April 30, 2010 — A spokesperson for Chairman George Miller says ”we haven’t scheduled it yet,” but added ”he intends to get to it very shortly” when asked about ENDA.

May 17, 2010 — Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a conference call with community leaders and went through the legislative calendar to explain that taking a vote on ENDA and DADT in the same week was literally impossible from a scheduling point of view. However, Pelosi also said “it’s not one or the other” and “I have no intention of losing on either of these.”

That last point is important, and it seems to contradict what Cong. Pelosi is claiming now.  Then she said it was not one or the other.  Now she’s saying it was.

The first mention of DADT “interfering” with moving forward on ENDA came in May of 2010, five months after we were promised the bill would be already done.

May 21, 2010 — Rep. Barney Frank says that ENDA will be delayed until late June or mid-July because of the planned upcoming vote on the compromise repeal of DADT.

At this point, who knows what to believe.  Clearly “something” was holding up ENDA in the House for a good year, and no one wanted to tell us what.  The DADT excuse only came up in May.  And even then, Speaker Pelosi denied that the House was in a situation of only passing DADT repeal or ENDA.  So what was the excuse for all the Charlie-Brown-football mark-ups that kept being promised and never happened?

At this point, mid-year of 2010, everything was falling apart.  Democrats were increasingly concerned about losing control of the House of Representatives, and ENDA, which wasn’t going anywhere anyway, started going there even more slowly.

If anything, movement on DADT ended up being the latest and greatest excuse for not doing anything on ENDA.  But it wasn’t the cause of the problem.  Clearly something was stopping the House committee from even marking ENDA up, and they never admitted what it was.  And still won’t.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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