Ah … the power of the gavel … and the ability to stonewall legislation … power that Chairman John Kline relishes.
Case in point … job discrimination and does the federal government have a role to protect workers ?
Read the letter authored by Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO-06), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), Charles W. Dent (R-PA-15), Robert Dold (R-IL-08), Chris Gibson (R-NY-19), Richard Hanna (R-NY-22), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) :
As Members of Congress dedicated to promoting equal rights to every American, we believe that no one should lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love. All workers should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for their families. Although a strong majority of voters support federal policies that would prohibit this harmful discrimination, there are limited avenues for recourse, and currently there are no federal prohibitions on this shameful practice.
This discrimination not only harms individuals and their families, but it also stifles growth, creativity, and innovation in the broader market. Recognizing this, many of America’s top companies have taken steps to protect their own employees, and most Fortune 500 companies now have policies in place prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Although these employer-based policies are important, they are not enough.
Federal, nationwide protections are critical to end discrimination and to ensure that every worker has an equal opportunity to earn a living.
While these Republicans have become letter writers, others have embraced a House Resolution.
133 Members have signed H.Res.208 – Equality for All Resolution of 2015
… a simple resolution
Resolved, That it is the sense of House of Representatives that—
(1) this resolution may be cited as the “Equality for All Resolution of 2015”,
(2) lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals are valuable, contributing members of society and that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a serious problem,
(3) lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals deserve equal treatment under the law and existing Federal protections are inadequate to ensure nondiscrimination protections,
(4) the Congress should pass legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including credit, employment, education, federally funded programs, housing, jury service, and public accommodations, and
(5) the Congress encourages each State—
(A) to simultaneously adopt laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in credit, employment, education, federally funded programs, housing, jury service, and public accommodations, and
(B) to reject laws that undermine nondiscrimination protections.
This is not a new issue for Congress to address … but it’s a sad recognition of the power of the gavel that they have had to resort to letter writing and resolutions, instead of holding a hearing and enacting legislation.
Why is that … well, last year, the Senate approved S. 815 : the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 by a vote of 64-32 … but the House never was allowed a vote.
Yes, the House had a companion bill (H.R. 1755) which was assigned to Chairman John Kline’s Education and the Workforce Committee.
Since Chairman Kline ignored the bill, on September 17, 2014, Representative Jared Polis filed a discharge petition, which, if signed by a majority of the House membership, would force a vote on the version of ENDA that even included a religious exemption. By September 22, it had been endorsed by 190 of the 218 that would be needed to force a release from John Kline’s committee. But that was not 218, so Chairman Kline continued to hold the bill.
Further, on December 3, 2014 6 Republican co-sponsors of H.R. 1755 asked House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on the legislation “as part of any available legislative vehicle including the National Defense Authorization Act” before the end of the 113th Congress. Later that day, the House Rules Committee voted 7 to 3 against adding ENDA as an amendment to the 2015 defense authorization bill.
So despite the fact that a majority of the Senate approved ENDA and many Members of the House wanted to a vote, it died with the close of that session of Congress.
Now, it’s a new session … and Chairman Kline was granted a waiver to retain his gavel … and his power to say NO to any piece of legislation that is assigned to his committee.
It’s an issue that comes into the headlines … like when the Indiana legislature anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ law … and then quickly moves off the news-media’s radar … until something happens worthy of being a headline.
It shouldn’t be …
Legalized discrimination is still a huge problem in this country. It remains legal in 29 states to fire an employee just for being gay.
Congress can fix this by passing federal employment non-discrimination legislation … but only if more Republicans like Representatives Coffman, Curbelo, Dent, Dold, Gibson, Hanna, LoBiondo and Ros-Lehtinen demand Chairman Kline to hold a vote.