Asked on Tuesday afternoon whether the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub changes his opposition to a pro-LGBT bill, House Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) denied the venue had anything to do with the gay community whatsoever. "It was a young person's nightclub, I'm told. And there were some [LGBT people] there, but it was mostly Latinos," told reporters, according to National Journal. Sessions has stood in firm opposition to the Maloney Amendment, an attachment that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT individuals.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has an amazing habit of saying some pretty remarkable things. Yesterday, however, the far-right congressman nevertheless managed to surprise.
For those unfamiliar with Sessions' background, in 2014, Sessions became strikingly confused about what a “witch hunt’ is. The year before, Sessions said he believes it’s “immoral” to extend jobless aid to “long-term unemployments [sic].” Around the same time, the congressman said the House should stop worrying about governing and focus exclusively on “messaging.”
Last year, the Texas Republican said he holds President Obama “personally accountable” for murders committed by undocumented immigrants, pointing to imaginary evidence. Sessions then insisted the Affordable Care Act costs Americans $5 million per person. (He was only off by $4,991,000.)
But despite this record, I didn't see this one coming.
Let's set the record straight: the mass shooting took place at a nightclub called Pulse, which describes itself as "the hottest gay bar in Orlando." The night of the massacre, it was hosting a Latino night, but that doesn't change the fact that the venue caters to an LGBT audience.
For Sessions to pretend otherwise is bizarre. The Texan's office told TPM the published quotes are correct, but "taken out of context without the background information." Sessions' spokesperson said, "What my boss meant to say was that there weren't only gay individuals at the club but people from all walks of life were present."
Perhaps, though that's not what the House Republican said. What's more, the broader legislative context relates to Sessions' opposition to an amendment that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. The point, in other words, is determining whether the Orlando murders might change Sessions' perspective about preventing employment discrimination.
And it's against this backdrop that the Texas lawmaker said he doesn't necessarily consider the gay nightclub a gay nightclub.
Sessions' perspective evidently isn't unique among his GOP colleagues: House Republicans are moving forward with plans to block the anti-discrimination policy, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
There appears to be a push in Republican circles this week to exploit the bloodshed in Orlando to woo LGBT voters. The pitch, in effect, is ugly but straightforward: a Muslim killed 49 people in a gay nightclub; Republicans are anti-Muslim; therefore LGBT voters should support Republicans.
If GOP officials seriously expect this strategy to work, they're going to be disappointed.