Following up on an item from late yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (better known as the HELP Committee) easily approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (better known as ENDA) this morning. The final vote count, by way of my colleague Tricia McKinney, was 15 to 7.
The two-to-one margin matters. If the legislation is going to have any chance of overcoming a Republican filibuster on the Senate floor, ENDA is going to need several GOP votes to side with the Democratic majority. With this in mind, this morning's vote was heartening -- all 12 Democrats on the committee backed the law, and they were joined by Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and most importantly, Orrin Hatch (Utah).
Going into this week, ENDA had 53 co-sponsors. With Murkowski and Hatch on board -- their votes were in doubt as recently as Monday -- that appears to bring the new total to 55. Proponents will obviously still need a few more votes to circumvent conservative obstructionism, but with four Republican votes (and counting), 60 is hardly an unrealistic goal at this point.
The House, with a radicalized GOP majority, will certainly be a heavier lift, but nearly two decades after ENDA was initially introduced, the legislation 's odds are improving.
A Senate source confirms this morning that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), an ENDA co-sponsor, intends to bring the bill to the floor "soon." Watch this space.