With Congress set to resume operations next Monday, the big question on the LGBT legislative agenda is whether ENDA is back.
When I ask "Is ENDA back?" I don't simply mean "Does ENDA exist?" To be or not to be is simply not the question. ENDA does exist -- it's safely behind bars in the basement jail over at the House Committee on Labor and Education -- but existing is very different from getting out of Committee jail and passing into law.
Will the Powers-That-Be push for it, or will they continue to give lip-service while letting it die amongst the ultra-crowded legislative agenda?
I don't know the answer to this question, and the DC crowd is being remarkably tight-lipped about it. The House Committee hasn't scheduled it for a markup yet, which means it's not yet on deck for next week, since 72 hours notice is required for a markup. When it does go for a markup, I plan to liveblog that hearing.
In addition, the Domestic Partnership Benefits law that will cover LGBT federal workers is expected to go first, though according to the DC Agenda, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry hasn't yet provided offset savings in his department , a necessary precursor to the bill's Senate floor vote. He's expected to "early this year." Yes, but how early? When I talked last year to Allison Herwitt, HRC's legislative director, she told me that the offset savings would be easy to find, and yet Mr. Berry came to the Congressional hearings without the info, which disappointed a lot of supporters of the DPBO bill. And there still is no offset, which means more delays for ENDA.
There are some hopeful signs, in that there are some organizations taking particularly effective action to push ENDA forward. And what is that effective action? I'll tell you what it's not. It's not calling your local Representative who already always supported ENDA.
The problem with ENDA is not the House. The House is ready to go, with well over the majority needed to pass the bill. The House is waiting on the Senate. The thinking over at the House is that there's no sense jumping on the ENDA bandwagon, only to have it go over a cliff when the Senate refuses to vote on it because there's not a majority. By my calculations from last year, which could be entirely outdated at this point, given the speed at which things change in DC, I counted 56 likely yes votes, and 9 potential yes votes. If that's the case, then there are not enough votes in the Senate.
I think that we can get those last 4 votes in the Senate. I know there are those of you, dear readers, who disagree with me and say that it's impossible. But when I look at who these 9 are, I do believe that at least 4 of them are fair-minded enough to vote for equality -- if their constituents will ask them to. We are going to need to get smart and get targeted. Smart and targeted advocacy is what can win the day here.
Here's an example of the type of advocacy that I believe can be most effective in this campaign for ENDA.
Here in California, the Task Force and the Transgender Law Center seek volunteers to call constituents in key congressional districts. In Los Angeles, the Task Force will host eight phonebanks this month:
When: Sunday, January 10, 17, 24, 31 from 2pm to 5pm; and Thursday, January 7, 14, 21, 28 from 630pm to 930pm.
Location: 2801 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles
For more information: call Rodrigo at 305.904.2392.
In San Francisco, the Transgender Law Center will host two phonebanks:
When: Tuesday, January19 & Wednesday, January 20, from 6-9pm.
Location: 870 Market Street, Room 822, San Francisco
For more information: email email@example.com
Now that's smart and targeted advocacy. It makes sense to be calling people in the states where the Senate votes needed to be gained, and asking them to support ENDA and call their Senators. It makes no sense for me to spend my limited advocacy time calling Senator Gillibrand's office. She's totally on board, and has been forever. I hope more organizations will opt for this kind of advocacy, rather than the blowhardy "hey, gang, let's all call our Congressmen!" hip-hip-hooray kind of stuff I've seen that soaks up people's time and efforts, only to be disappointed because they keep hearing about how ENDA is delayed and delayed. If people understood what the hold up is --i.e., the Senate -- and which states could make a difference -- i.e., AK, AR, FL, IN, NC, ND, OH and WV -- then they might have a sense of progress when one of those moves.
Next week I will resume my daily ENDA posts here on Bilerico, to keep you up to date on how to get ENDA passed. I will try to give you that smart and targeted approach so you know your advocacy time is well spent.
I hope you will join us in getting ENDA through, and having your friends join us. This can happen, but only if we all pull together.