There was “chaos” on the House floor last week when the Republican majority held open a vote, twisted arms, and found a way to defeat an anti-discrimination measure after the vote had initially gone the other way. Last night, however, the chamber had the same fight again, this time with a different outcome. The Washington Post reported overnight:
The House voted late Wednesday night to approve a measure to bar the government from paying federal contractors that discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation.Members erupted into cheers Wednesday night after the measure, sponsored by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), was approved 223-195. The Wednesday vote was the second in less than a week on an issue that divides Republicans as a party and is proving equally contentious among GOP lawmakers in the House.
The final roll call on the amendment is online here. Note that while the vast majority of House Republicans voted against the policy, 43 did not – and that was enough for united Democrats to prevail. (Here, by the way, is the roll call on last week’s vote. Note that the number of GOP members went up quite a bit in the wake of media attention.)
While last week’s vote was an amendment to a defense spending bill, the measure was considered last night as an amendment to the energy and water spending bill, which is expected to clear the House later today.
And while the result was encouraging for civil rights’ advocates, did you happen to catch House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) explanation for the strange congressional developments?
Remember, the underlying issue isn’t that complicated. As we discussed last week, President Obama issued an executive order two years ago prohibiting government contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and applicants. Republicans still want to undo what the White House did, so they recently added a provision to a spending bill restoring contractors’ ability to discriminate.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) amendment nullifies the anti-LGBT provision and protects the White House’s anti-discrimination policy. That’s the measure that passed last night.
Asked last week about the procedural craziness, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters he agreed with the far-right position and wants to undo the administration’s policy. “This is federalism. The states should do this. The federal government shouldn’t stick its nose in this business,” Ryan said.
The argument is pretty ridiculous on its face. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern put it, the Speaker of the House “believes that states should decide whether the federal government should allow federal contractors to use federal tax dollars to engage in anti-LGBTQ discrimination when working on federal projects overseen by federal agencies. And this man is the intellectual leader of the Republican Party.”
Yesterday, Ryan tried a new posture.
Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) told reporters on Tuesday that the breakdown last week was the result of confusion about the amendment and a fear that the issue could undermine support for the overall bill. “A lot of folks didn’t know what they were voting on,” Ryan said.
Funny, Ryan seemed to think it was pretty clear last week.