ENDA passes US Senate: 64-32; Boehner opposes passage in House

The US Senate today passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation banning workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people, by a hefty 64 t0 32 margin.

The bill only needed to pass by a simple majority after it earlier obtained the necessary votes to break a Republican filibuster.

All Democrats (and Independents) present voted for the bill, along with 10 Republicans: Kirk, McCain, Flake, Toomey, Portman, Hatch, Ayotte, Murkowski, Heller and Collins.

The legislation now moves over to the House, where Republican Speaker John Boehner has promised to kill it.


Boehner claimed the other day that ENDA is unnecessary, as it duplicated existing protections under the law.  That’s actually not true. First, here’s Boehner’s aide:

“We have always believed this is covered by existing law,” the aide said, adding that it is “not a new issue or a new position — it’s a longstanding position, and, frankly, not ‘news’ at all. This has been his position, on the record, for years, stated publicly many times.”

It’s legal under federal law to fire (or not hire, or not promote) someone for being gay or trans.  It also legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay, and in 33 states to fire someone for being trans.  Though, gays and trans people in those states would be protected if the city in which they live has outlawed such discrimination.

Another odd aspect of Boehner’s position: He claims that ENDA will lead to frivolous lawsuits and the loss of American jobs.  But if gay job protections are already part of the law, and this legislation is duplicative, then we’re already have those frivolous lawsuits and lost jobs.  So where are they?

As Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid noted the other day, Boehner claims to be worried about frivolous lawsuits yet he spent $2 million of the taxpayers money on his own frivolous lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act, which was struck down (in part) by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

Because of Boehner’s opposition, the prospects for ENDA in the House aren’t terribly good. Which raises the question of how big a victory this really is.

I’m not a terribly big fan of passing legislation in one House that you know won’t pass in the other. It’s not always a good idea to make your team take hard votes when the vote won’t matter, because the legislation is going down. But in this case, things are more interesting as the “hard vote” has tended to be the vote against ENDA, not the vote for it.

As Senator Reid noted the other day, both GOP Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, likely presidential contenders in 2016, chickened out when it came to speaking against ENDA on the Senate floor.  Both men are known for being happy (and yappy) to go on the Senate floor and talk at length if it means a bit more media exposure.  Yet on ENDA, they were silent (though they ended up voting against it).  Arch-conservatives that they are, Rubio and Cruz fear that opposing gay rights might hurt their presidential aspirations, and Rubio is a religious right clone.  That’s quite a tacit admission.

For that reason, the ENDA vote was likely a good idea, even if there is little chance of it passing the Republican House.

Clearly ENDA, and gay civil rights issues more generally, are making the Republicans squirm.  What was once feared to be a third-rail for Democrats, has become a real third-rail for Republicans.  And who doesn’t get a chuckle out of that.

Here’s a statement just released by the President:

Office of the Press Secretary

November 7, 2013

Statement by the President on Senate Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013

For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans.  Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end the injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.

Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago.  In particular, I thank Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, Senators Merkley and Collins for their leadership, and Senator Kirk for speaking so eloquently in support of this legislation.  Now it’s up to the House of Representatives.  This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities.  They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.

One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do.  Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it.  I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law.  On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | 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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25 Responses to “ENDA passes US Senate: 64-32; Boehner opposes passage in House”

  1. BillFromDover says:

    Name one.

  2. BillFromDover says:

    Boehner opposes passage in House

    Of course he does.

    Does anybody expect even one bagger to support this?

  3. Moderator4 says:

    You have posted this exact same comment on multiple blogs, ocean. You are banned. Good-bye.

  4. ocean says:

    The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
    would open the door to all types of Life Styles
    deviant sexual perversion into the workplace.
    The Democrat Party is sick.

  5. oreo57 says:

    Start here:

    Republican Who Didn’t Vote:

    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

    Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.)

    Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

  6. Hue-Man says:

    “[Boehner] claims that ENDA will lead to frivolous lawsuits and the loss of American jobs.”

    Facts are not relevant to TeaParty/GOP politicians but here are some real statistics on sexual orientation complaints. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hears complaints relating to employment, rentals, services and other for a population of 4.4 million. Of the 1,959 discrimination claims in the 12 months ended March 31, 2012 (govt fiscal year), the “sexual orientation” complaints were 55 (yes, less than sixty); the number is so small I didn’t bother to look for the figure for ENDA-type complaints. http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/annual_reports/info/Annual_Report_2011-2012.pdf (pie-chart on p. 12 of 34 in the .pdf file) There are more complaints than complainants – consider a legally-blind transgender Tibetan Buddhist in a wheelchair claiming discrimination!

    Even if you multiply by 100 (or 1,000 or pick a number) for population, employers have little to worry about from ENDA, especially if they don’t fire people because they’re gay.

    If anything the complaints are higher than the U.S. because Canadian courts award court costs to the losing party – the no-cost HR Tribunal is a better choice than suing for wrongful dismissal if you risk having to pay your employer’s court costs. Also, it’s been in place for a long time so employees may be more aware of their rights. On the other hand, B.C. is less religious (44% “no religious affiliation” in 2011) and has more immigrants (30% of the population vs 12.9% U.S.). Finally, to state the obvious, it’s possible to be discriminated against without your knowledge – “already rented that apartment, job’s been filled, etc.”

  7. Indigo says:

    Thus doth the War on Women expand its horizon to also be the War on Gays. Conservatives, thy name is Stuff and Nonsense.

  8. FLL says:

    I agree. I don’t think Boehner will let it come up for a vote as long as he is speaker. The only value of Senate passage is getting ENDA into the news. I honestly think that the average American voter wasn’t aware of ENDA’s existence and wrongly thought that federal legislation already prohibited people being fired for being gay. Every poll has born that out. How can a public outcry for the passage of ENDA even begin under those circumstances? Bringing ENDA into the light of day is the first requirement.

    What about the argument that an ENDA executive order would be used by opponents of civil rights to show that congressional legislation is unnecessary? A few weeks from now, when Boehner finally says, “Over my dead body,” that will be the end of the road in Congress. That also means that Obama’s only rationale for not issuing an executive order will vanish. The opponents of an ENDA law passed by Congress will no longer be able to make political hay out of an ENDA executive order because Boehner’s refusal mark the end of ENDA’s progress in Congress. The only politically smart thing to do at that point is issue an executive order and try to paint Boehner and his gang as fools who are out of touch with modern America. Nonetheless, Obama has acted like an idiot before, and I don’t put it past him to act like an idiot again. But at least everyone knows what the only rational next step is. We’ll certainly see how it plays out within weeks. I don’t think it will take long for Boehner to issue his “Over-my-dead-body” proclamation.

  9. Thom Allen says:

    “All Democrats (and Independents) present voted for the bill,” I’d like to know which members of the Senate were not there. I think that it’s incumbent upon all of them to be present anytime there is a vote – unless there is a damned good reason that they be absent (e.g. hospitalized for a medical illness.) This isn’t just about ENDA, it’s about being present to vote on an issue and to show your constituents on which side of an issue you stand.

  10. BeccaM says:

    I would be astonished if this passed the House, or was even allowed to come up for a vote.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    The age of reforms, from Social Security through the Voting Rights Act and the Medicare is over. This is the age of taking away reforms and in that the Democrats are taking the lead, constantly trying to outflank the Republicans from the right.

    Both parties will pay the price and become Whigs.

  12. Whitewitch says:

    If they can not, will not and have not passed the Equal Rights Amendment protecting Woman and can not, will not and have not passed the Violence Against Women Act, then I suspect they will not pass Enda. I have no hope for this House of Representatives to do anything sort of voting to repeal the ACA and now to force insurance companies to keep insurance for those who had it, lost it and now want it back – even though it is shitty insurance. Oh and collect their huge paychecks for doing none and all of the same.

  13. House procedure is way above my pay grade, I know the Senate. Anyone?

  14. Drew2u says:

    I agree with you. The historical sense is that the Dems and some Rs are courting the gay/young vote in time for re-election.
    The real test would be how many House candidates go out on the trail and say, “If you elect me, I will vote for the passage of ENDA”.
    As it is, it just seems to reenforce the notion that Democrats abhor power; they’re always raring to go as the underdogs and try to get votes and money by making a show of trying to get stuff passed. But if they get in power, they’re chickenshit and don’t pass anything (*cough*filibusterReform*cough*).

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    Counting on the fact that ENDA cannot possibly become a law this term the Democrats decided to pass it in the Senate to trawl for votes and contributions.

    That will bite them if they regain control of Congress, just as their right turn after 2008 cost them 29 million plus votes in 2010.

  16. trinu says:

    Did the Senate change it’s mind on the transgender bathroom provision or was that part not in this version of the bill?

  17. slappymagoo says:

    Is this bill immune from being brought to the floor of the House via a dispatch petition?

  18. lynchie says:

    Kennedy was a stand up guy. It appears that we are now ruled almost entirely by people who are afraid to represent the majority in their districts. The GOP worry about the TP running against them so bend over and kiss all the asses to stay elected. We can rid ourselves of thePalins, Cruz’s, King’s and Paul’s simply by not giving in to the minority view of what is right. If the minority don’t like where the majority is taking the country then please leave. We will gladly pay to put you all in shipping containers with a bunch of zombies but also having no brains it will be meager pickings for the zombies.

  19. FLL says:

    ENDA passed in the Senate, but Boehner probably won’t even bring it up for a vote. Wherein lies the benefit? The benefit is that before today, ENDA was never part of the national dialogue; the American public was never even aware of its existence, but now that has changed. Indeed, the American public was never even aware of the need for ENDA since the great majority of Americans, in poll after poll, have stated that they believe it is already illegal to fire people for their sexual orientation anywhere in the United States. Someone needs to make a public service announcement to inform Americans that people can be fired for their sexual orientation in a large number of states. And voilà! Jay Carney finally does something useful:


  20. The_Fixer says:


    I would be much more excited about this is it had a snowball’s chance in hell of passing in the House. But Boehner, because he is threatened by a TEA Party candidate, is keeping it from even getting on the floor.

    I’d like to think he could be pressured, but it’s unlikely. Unless somebody has something on him.

    Anybody got something on him? Aside from the fake tan, of course.

  21. The_Fixer says:

    Too Late!

  22. S1AMER says:

    Yeah. A few voted for us because they’re more enlightened about equality (e.g., Kirk, post-stroke) than most of their caucus, and others voted with us because they’re concerned about their legacy (McCain, I presume), or occasionally like to show independence from the caucus that didn’t support them in a primary (Murkowski), or because they’re from blue states and know where America is tending (Toomey, Flake). Whatever their reasons for doing the right thing, they DID the right thing, and we should thank them for that.

    Oh, and don’t forget that every single Democrat — every one, even nervous red staters — voted for ENDA. That wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. We should thank them.

    Finally, please say a thank you to Ted Kennedy. He stood up so many times all those years ago, and we owe some measure of our political progress to his good efforts. I miss him.

  23. Naja pallida says:

    John Boehner can’t do anything to risk being seen as competent.

  24. lynchie says:

    The GOP is really the party of evil. The arguments against this bill make no sense and it reverts back to homophobia and and general hatred for all things not supported by big business or the religious right. This country will never move forward unless we can put aside these petty, bullshit positions and do things for americans. Until then I hope the GOP all have their brains eaten by zombies.

  25. kingstonbears says:

    A special thank you to the 10 Republicans who supported us.

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