Referring to the battle to get Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal (DADT) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi made her intentions clear Monday in a conference call with LGBT activists: "I have no intention of losing on either of these."
During the call, Pelosi laid out how she forsaw the battle unfolding: first a vote on DADT repeal, followed later by ENDA:
((Pelosi)) went through the chronology of the calendar and the fact that taking a vote on ENDA and DADT in the same week is literally impossible from a scheduling standpoint. Pelosi also said she thought ENDA would have a much better likelihood of passing if DADT repeal were successfully ushered through first...
Pelosi said she did not intend to leave this Congress without putting ENDA to a vote in the House. "It's not one or the other," the source recalled Pelosi saying in reference to ENDA and DADT.
The Speaker of the House, unlike some, is not one to make irresponsible statements or idle predictions, so I have some confidence in what she is saying.
According to Open Left's Adam Bink, a vote on DADT repeal in the House is likely to come up at the end of next week.
The House floor vote is likely to take place on either Thursday, May 27 or Friday, May 28.
But there's a catch for ENDA (there's always a catch): the dreaded
Pirate Roberts Motion to Recommit.
While Capitol Hill insiders and lawmakers like Rep. Tammy Baldwin generally agree that the votes to pass ENDA do exist, they continue to worry about the possibility that Republicans will attempt to add an amendment known as a "motion to recommit" in order to kill the bill or irrevocably alter it...
... some Hill observers think the motion to recommit could go beyond a simple effort to strip out gender identity protections to being something more hostile, more depraved in the way it targets certain segments of the transgender population.
So what is a Motion to Recommit, and why are Democrats shaking in their Birkenstocks over it?
Basically, it is the right of the Minority party to try to throw a monkey wrench into legislation at the last minute:
... before the Speaker orders the vote on final passage of the bill (or resolution), a motion to recommit the bill, either with or without instructions, to the committee which originally reported it, is in order.
As noted in the quote, motions to recommit come in two flavors: with or without instructions. (Personally, my favorite flavors were Toscanini's Mango and Cinnamon Nutmeg, but I digress). The 'without instructions' flavor is pretty much a tactic to kill the bill directly; not a major problem, at least with ENDA. If the votes exist to pass the bill, then, almost by definition, the votes don't exist to kill the bill.
No, it's the 'with instructions' flavor that has the House leadership playing Robot on Lost in Space, warning "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!"
If the motion to recommit is with instructions, the originating committee to which the bill is returned is bound to follow those instructions. Usually the instruction is for the committee to "report the bill back to the House forthwith with the following amendment."... In effect, this is a last chance for the Minority to make a germane change in the bill... If the bill is recommitted with such "forthwith" instructions, the bill is immediately reported back to the House on the spot with the amendment, the amendment is voted on, and the House proceeds to final passage of the bill. The bill does not disappear into some legislative limbo as some seem to think. It either is killed (by adoption of a straight motion to recommit without instructions) or comes immediately back (by adoption of the "forthwith" motion to recommit with instructions).
The motion to recommit is the prerogative of the Minority party.
In other words, the Republicans can propose anything they want, like "Be it resolved that the entire ENDA bill be replaced with the text 'Motherhood, Apple Pie and George Washington are to be praised'." And they can make the House vote on it. And what Democrat could possibly vote against Motherhood?
You might ask, why this is different than proposing an amendment? After all, the Republicans could just as well propose an amendment replacing the entire ENDA bill with a recipe for apple pie, couldn't they? I'm not an expert on Congressional procedure, but I believe there are two important differences.
First, before a bill comes to the floor, it goes through the House Rules committee (controlled by the majority party) which decides which and what kind of amendments will be allowed. And second, the language of an amendment is know beforehand, whereas the language of a motion to recommit is not known until the motion is made, and then the House only has a very limited amount of time (10 minutes to an hour) to debate it.
So one can begin to understand why Pelosi and the bill's sponsors want to absolutely sure their membership will stand firm in the face of ANY batshit insane thing the Republicans dream up for their recommittal motion -- before they make their move to bring the bill up for a floor vote.
And that's the way it is, just not the way we'd like it to be.
Will the recent election results make the Democrats a lot more confident, and therefore more willing to stand up to whatever the Republicans might try to throw in? For the sake of equal rights, let's hope so.
Here are Democratic Representatives in the House who, according to this ENDA Whip Count Spreadsheet, are as yet undecided about how they will vote on ENDA. Call them, write them, threaten not to donate to them. Let them know this will not go away.
ENDA Unconfirmed Democrats: