16 Senate Dems Uncommitted on ENDA as House Eyes Vote

House Democrats are preparing to begin debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in advance of a vote, Roll Call reports:

Barney The fact that the measure passed the House last Congress without the transgender provision “helps our Members understand that this is not toxic, because nobody that I know of lost any race because of it,” Frank said. “Secondly, we have done some education on the transgender issue, which we hadn’t done before.” Two years ago, he said, the matter was “too new.”

But one House Republican leadership aide said Democrats are proceeding with the ban, officially the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, at their own political peril. “The fact that the Democrat leadership are about to make 60-plus vulnerable Members vote for transgendered protections shows just how out of touch Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] is with the reality facing these Members,” this aide said, predicting the provision would prompt the majority to lose the support of Republicans who backed it in the last Congress.

The broader version of the bill, introduced in June by Frank, has gathered 199 co-sponsors, including six Republicans — support that the measure’s backers pointed to in making the case it is already close to clearing the 216-vote hurdle needed for passage. “We feel confident that we have the majority,” said Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, which has helped coordinate lobbying for a discrimination ban extended to include gender identity. “The Speaker is interested in looking at, after the health care vote and after the recess, is everybody in the same place?”

An informal whip team was assembled this week to survey the members.

"One concern backers are working to head off as they measure support for the comprehensive approach: the threat of a narrowly drawn Republican alternative that simply strikes protections for transgender people. 'We want to make sure we can withstand any potential recommit,' said [Rep. Jared] Polis, referring to the Republican procedural maneuver that could complicate the Democratic endgame on the measure.

More at Roll Call

It's less clear what will happen to the bill once it reaches the Senate:

"Multiple sources have told DC Agenda that supporters in the Senate don’t appear to have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster that Republican opponents are expected to invoke to block an up or down floor vote….With the 2010 congressional elections fast approaching, only two GOP senators have so far committed to vote for ENDA, making it essential for supporters to line up most of the 16 uncommitted Democrats to secure the bill’s passage in the Senate.

Said Barney Frank: I think the best thing I can do about the Senate and ENDA is to get it passed [in the House] and send it over there.”

A few more details: 

"As of this week, there were 45 Senate co-sponsors of ENDA, along with chief sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), bringing the total committed votes to 46. Of the 46, 42 are Democrats and two are independents. Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are the only Senate Republicans that have signed on as co-sponsors.

Thirty-nine Republican senators have declined to co-sponsor the bill compared to the 16 Democrats who chose not to become a co-sponsor. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) signed on as a co-sponsor on March 10, reducing the number of uncommitted Democrats from 17 to 16."

More at D.C. Agenda.