The Employee Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA — the bill that would, among other things, outlaw firing people based on sexual orientation — got enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster just in time for House Speaker John Boehner to announce his opposition to it. Meaning that the House will almost certainly not bring it to a vote.
As we noted over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to bring the bill, in the works for two decades, to a cloture vote on Monday evening. On Monday morning, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, announced that he would support ending the filibuster. With 59 other senators supporting the move, Heller's announcement means that the bill will move forward and be passed by the Senate. In a statement, Heller outlined his reason for supporting the effort. "This legislation," he wrote, "raises the federal standards to match what we have come to expect in Nevada, which is that discrimination must not be tolerated under any circumstance."
Boehner was unimpressed. As reported by Politico, Boehner will oppose the measure.
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email Monday. …
Senior House Republican aides say the bill is unlikely to come up in the chamber, as they believe existing law provides these protections.
As blogger Andrew Sullivan noted on Sunday, the threat of "frivolous litigation" has not been borne out in other instances when non-discrimination policies have been expanded. Nor is it the case that existing law affords the protections that would follow from ENDA. While there are local and state provisions, there are still 29 states that have no such policies, according to Human Rights Campaign.
The issue, unsurprisingly, has become a benchmark for conservatives. The conservative Heritage Foundation, largely focused on right-wing economic policy, demanded a vote against the bill, saying it "threatens fundamental civil liberties" by "coerc[ing companies] into accepting the federal government’s set of values." It then explains why laws banning Jim Crow were an acceptable type of coercion.
The House / Senate split isn't a new one, having played out on immigration reform and, to some extent, gun control already this year. If the House were to vote on the measure, it would likely reject the bill. But ENDA has been introduced in 10 Congresses previously. It will almost certainly come up again.