In the News
By Lindsey McPherson
An LGBT amendment that threw the House floor into a frenzy last week won approval late Wednesday night, meaning that some Republicans switched positions on the discrimination issue yet again.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., had failed by a single vote (212-213) last week after a handful of Republicans changed their vote from yes to no at the last minute. Democrats erupted into rage, repeatedly shouting "shame," as the vote was held open after time expired and the number of yes votes slowly dropped.
The scene on Wednesday night as the House adopted the amendment, 223-195 , was significantly more subdued. As the vote was called shortly after time expired, Democrats applauded their victory but the volume of cheers was much lighter than the jeers the week prior.
Maloney's amendment would uphold President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He first offered it last Thursday on a military construction and veterans spending measure.
A total of 43 Republicans voted for the amendment Wednesday after only 29 Republicans supported it last week. A similar amendment offered last year by Rep. Scott Peters, D-Cali., won the support of 60 Republicans.
The seven Republicans who Democrats claim switched their votes from yes to no on the Maloney amendment last week all voted for it on Wednesday. The seven are California Reps. Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Mimi Walters; Oregon Rep. Greg Walden; Iowa Rep. David Young; and Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
Other Republicans that flip flopped, voting yes on the second Maloney amendment after voting no on the first were: Reps. Susan W. Brooks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Luke Messer of Indiana, James B. Renacci of Ohio, Tom Rooney of Florida and Todd Young of Indiana. They all voted for the similar amendment last year.
“A bunch of members were misled as to what [last week's] amendment was or was not, what it was about," Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday. "A lot of people thought it was about bathrooms and guidance letters. And then the bill managers and the floor managers very legitimately thought it was going to take down the bill funding veterans in the military.”
Ryan attributed part of the confusion to the "unpredictable and sloppy" open amendment process. "When you do two-minute votes, with very little notice, stacking them together, it produces a little bit of confusion," he said.
When Maloney resubmitted the amendment on Wednesday -- this time on an energy and water spending bill -- Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., offered an amendment to Maloney’s measure to ensure the discrimination ban would not run afoul of the Constitution.
Pitts' amendment seemingly was designed to make a point that Obama does not have the power to write laws, only Congress does. But it failed to detract from the underlying issue, as Maloney did not object to it.
“We don’t fear the Constitution," Maloney said. "We welcome it. We embrace it.”
Pitt’s amendment to Maloney's amendment was passed via voice vote, and then Maloney requested a roll call vote on his amendment, which was held later Wednesday night.
The House on Wednesday night also adopted, 233-186, an amendment from Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., that would ensure the provisions in the spending measure do not contradict existing religious protections.
Byrne said Obama's executive order did not provide protections for religious-based organizations who engage in government contracting. He said his amendment would ensure religious protections applied if Maloney's amendment were to be included in the bill.
Young was seemingly using the Byrne amendment as rationale for switching his vote on the Maloney amendment again.
"The language offered this evening offers vital workplace protections from discrimination of both personal religious beliefs and sexual orientation," he said in a statement claiming he's always been consistent in his position. "It is a common sense solution which furthers policies that adhere to our nation’s principles and religious beliefs."
An amendment Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., offered to prohibit the Obama administration from blocking North Carolina from receiving federal funds in retaliation to its transgender bathroom law was adopted 227-192.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats were happy to see Maloney’s amendment pass Wednesday after Republicans worked so hard to defeat it a week ago. But undermining that success, she said, were the Pittenger and Byrne amendments.
“Republicans overwhelmingly voted to support HB 2, the hateful and discriminatory state law in North Carolina, and to enable anti-LGBT bigotry across our country,” Pelosi said. “House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. History will not look kindly on the votes Republicans proudly took to target Americans because of whom they are or whom they love.”