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Pressure builds in advance of Senate floor vote on ENDA, 60 Senators likely to vote yes


Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, announced today he will support ENDA when it comes up for a floor vote tonight.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, announced today he will support ENDA when it comes up for a floor vote tonight.

Last Thursday, on Halloween night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture for the Senate version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit businesses from making employment decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity, setting up a floor vote on the measure for tonight after 5 p.m.

It is almost certain that the measure will need 60 votes to overcome an expected Republican filibuster on the cloture vote.  After a successful vote, the Senate can observe up to 30 hours of debate before a final simple majority vote is required for passage.

Last week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin became the final Democrat to announce support for ENDA, meaning that the entire 55-member Democratic caucus will vote for cloture on the bill.  (The 55th Democratic vote comes from the Senate’s newest member, New Jersey’s Cory Booker.)  ENDA also enjoys the co-sponsorship of two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Two additional Republicans, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supported ENDA in a committee vote this summer; if they vote for the bill on the Senate floor, it will be just one vote shy of passage.  (Both Hatch and Murkowski have given themselves room to back away from the bill, however, as the Washington Blade reported last week.)

Assuming Hatch and Murkowski do vote yes on ENDA, Republican Sen. Dean Heller could be the 60th vote for the measure, according to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner, who tweeted a link to a press release issued by the senator:

After listening to Nevadans’ concerns about this issue from a variety of viewpoints and after numerous conversations with my colleagues, I feel that supporting this legislation is the right thing to do.  Under the leadership of this Governor, as well as the legislature over the past several years, Nevada has established a solid foundation of anti-discrimination laws.  This legislation 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.

In advance of tonight’s vote, President Barack Obama wrote a post on the Huffington Post‘s blog late yesterday titled “Congress Needs to Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act”:

[M]illions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs — not because of anything they’ve done, but simply because of who they are.

It’s offensive. It’s wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.

That’s why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land.

Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done. Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay — or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? If someone works hard every day, does everything he or she is asked, is responsible and trustworthy and a good colleague, that’s all that should matter.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, published his own weekend op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in favor of the measure:

At Apple, we try to make sure people understand that they don’t have to check their identity at the door. We’re committed to creating a safe and welcoming workplace for all employees, regardless of their race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation.

As we see it, embracing people’s individuality is a matter of basic human dignity and civil rights. It also turns out to be great for the creativity that drives our business. We’ve found that when people feel valued for who they are, they have the comfort and confidence to do the best work of their lives.

So long as the law remains silent on the workplace rights of gay and lesbian Americans, we as a nation are effectively consenting to discrimination against them.

This morning, Republican House Speaker John Boehner reaffirmed his opposition to ENDA.  “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

Check back tonight here at EqualityOnTrial for updates on the Senate floor vote!

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