ENDA: Civil Rights in the 21st Century.

November 6, 2013

enda, employment nondiscrimination act, usa, speaker boehner enda, house republicans enda, senate enda, politics

The importance of passing ENDA in one quote.

Two days ago, 61 Senators – including seven Republicans – voted to begin debate on the vital role of passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).

ENDA; A bill that if passed in the coming days, would prevent workplace discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, the Bill ensures that workers should not feel scared that they might lose their jobs if their employer finds out (yup, it’s still taboo to be gay or transgender in the land of the free) that they happen to be in love with someone of the same gender as themselves, or happen to be transgender. It is a civil rights bill, an equality bill, a bill that levels the playing field. Which is why Republicans in the House oppose it.

Predictably, a Republican House that didn’t wish to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act if it happened to cover LGBT couples and fought hard (though, ultimately failed) to prevent it passing appear to see ENDA as an opportunity to reiterate how much they dislike anyone who happens to be LGBT. The same heterosexual, male, anti-equality NO votes appear on every Senate roll call; Cruz, Paul, Lee, Rubio. A filibuster proof majority ensured the far-right in the Senate could not hold the country to ransom again.

That being said, despite the fact that ENDA will almost certainly pass the Senate, and has widespread support from the public (60% support ENDA), Speaker Boehner refuses to bring a vote to the House floor. Insisting:

“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

– Just analyse that quote for a second. Really take in what Boehner is saying here. The Speaker of the House has just referred to lawsuits against employers that threaten your livelihood, your income, your ability to pay your mortgage, or feed your family, or pay your bills, the heartache and bullying it perpetuates, based solely on your sexual orientation – which is absolutely none of their business, and does not affect your work – as “frivolous”. The act of firing someone based solely on their sexual orientation, the Republicans do not apparently see as “frivolous”, and in fact consider perfectly reasonable and legitimate. To take this logic to its ultimate conclusion, they must – if they are to be consistent – also support workplace discrimination when it is aimed at race, gender, and religion.

Ironically, this is the same House Speaker that has brought 48 frivolous anti-Affordable Care Act votes to the House Floor, and forced a frivolous government shutdown costing $24bn. I’m not entirely sure the Speaker of the House is in any position to be telling us what is and isn’t “frivolous”.

Not only that, but it isn’t true that litigation would increase. There is no evidence for that at all. In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office there are currently 22 States that have their own anti-discrimination policies. The GAO report concludes that between 2007-2012, of those 22 States:

“…there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed in these states during this time period.”

– In other words, anti-discrimination policies work. Whether they are designed to level the playing field by working to end white supremacy, male supremacy, or heterosexual supremacy; they are not only morally right, they work.
But that is just 22 States. Texas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and 25 more States currently do not allow for protection against discrimination in the workplace, if you happen to be gay. So, not only can same-sex couples not get marriage in Texas…. they also can’t mention their partner incase their employer finds out and fires them. This is why ENDA is vital.

That being said, ENDA is not completely equality-oriented. Under ENDA, a religious organisation, or institution; including educational, can still proscribe LGBT people from holding office. A watered down ENDA Bill enshrines institutionalised bigotry, by suggesting that that bigotry is acceptable, if it is based on religious conviction; an exemption ensured by the voice of the Christian-right minority. ENDA doesn’t go far enough, but it’s a good start.

Secondly, Boehner’s statement says unequivocally that the ENDA would cost American jobs. How so? Surely having the option to fire someone based on their sexuality orientation rather than the quality of their work, is a jobs killer. Is Boehner willing to tell the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have non-discrimination policies, that they’re killing jobs? Boehner’s comment implies that discriminating against gay people actually has a positive effect on the economy. For Boehner, the measure of your success through the quality of your work, is less important than who you fall in love with. Hard work pays, but only if you’re straight. For some odd reason, Boehner seems to saying that being able to prevent qualified and talented people from being employed simply for being gay, grows an economy. It quickly becomes easy to see past the “economy! jobs” veil that the Republicans tend to place over their faces to mask their inherent religiously motivated dislike for anyone who isn’t exactly like them. And don’t be fooled, this is just another attempt to allow religion to dictate policy and the concept of rights.

Even if the Speaker’s claims were correct – that jobs were lost, and litigation increased due to ending workplace discrimination – it would not be a legitimate argument to perpetuate oppression and workplace bullying. Speaker Boehner has no credible argument for refusing to allow a debate and vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

When recently re-elected Republican Governor of New Jersey – and potential Republican Candidate for President in 2016 – Chris Christie was asked how he would respond to the news that one of his children was gay, Christie said:

“[If] my children came to me and said that they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them, just like I would do with any of my children who came to me with news that they wanted to give to me that they thought were important enough to open themselves up in that way. But what I would also tell them is that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. And that’s my position… And I know what [my child] would understand is that their father loves them, and that’s the most important thing.”

– What he essentially saying is: “I love you and everything, but I will continue to vote to uphold a system that made it difficult for you to come to me in the first place, and that will inevitably lead to discrimination and bullying against you in the future.” Whilst Christie isn’t willing to protect his children against bullying, fear and discrimination, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently passing through the Senate works to address those problems. It is of vital importance to the cause of civil rights and equality that a secular and democratic nation like the United States has fought since its conception to ensure.


Stimulus: GOP Letters of Hypocrisy.

October 22, 2013

The Republican hypocrisy machine has been in full swing for quite some time. For the past forty years, it has been Republicans pushing for employer and individual health insurance mandates. Just nine years ago, anti-universal healthcare Republicans were proclaiming the necessity if a US funded universal healthcare system in Iraq. Just three years ago, House Republicans were expressing their staunch opposition to attaching legislative vehicles to Continuing Resolutions. It would also seem that four years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, Republicans are still highlighting their “No” votes, as a sure sign of their fiscal responsibility, and evidence for the President’s ‘socialist’ credentials.

With 2014 fast approaching the GOP talking point appears to be “getting spending under control” insisting that only Republicans can achieve a fiscally responsible future. And so the hypocrisy machine is back in full swing.

Congressman Pat Tiberi of Ohio’s 12th District was a vocal critic of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. The entire idea of stimulus angered him to his very core. He announced that:

“it’s loaded with Nancy Pelosi’s grab bag of big spending wishes.”

“What the Democratic Stimulus does include is unprecedented, record-breaking spending that saddles future generations with mountains of debt. Americans deserve better.”

– In public, Tiberi was so incredibly angry with the stimulus package put forward in early 2009, that by September 2009 in private, he signed a letter of support for the TIGER programme built into the stimulus package for a Federal grant for his district, with which he notes would:

“…not only continue the ongoing economic development in the region, but enhance mobility and liveability in the communities in and around Columbus…”

“… enhance economic competitiveness in the region…”

– The grovelling letter continues in that tone for another few paragraphs. But don’t take my word for, here is the final paragraph, and the Congressman’s signature, to see for yourself:

Untitled-1

Rep. Tiberi is of course not the only one. Here is a brief summary of before-stimulus, and after-stimulus GOP statements:

Rep Gus Bilirakis (R-FL 12th) called the stimulus the worst bill he’d ever voted against, adding:

“Congressional Democrats have produced a bill that does nothing to aid small businesses and will not spur economic growth according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

– In September 2009, Bilirakis penned this letter:

Gus Bilirakis, stimulus, 2009, obama, republicans, gop hypocrisy, usa economy
– In less than a year, Bilirakis went from publicly insisting that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would not spur economic growth, to producing a letter insisting that stimulus funds to his district would spur economic growth.

The ex-Representative for Ohio’s 7th district, Steve Austria blamed Franklin Roosevelt – elected in 1933 – for the Great Depression – began in 1929 – and used this as a reason why he voted No on stimulus, stating:

“When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

– Given how catastrophic (and wrong) Steve Austria believes a Keynesian approach to economic struggle would be for the US, it seems odd that he’d become a part of that predicted catastrophe, by suggesting the opposite is true:

steve austria, gop hypocrisy, stimulus 2009, obama stimulus
– Interestingly the “Republican Liberty Caucus” voted Austria 84% for his support of what they see as economic liberty. An 84% economic liberty rating, despite Austria begging for stimulus funds that the “Republican Liberty Caucus”, in 2009, deemed to be:

“Marxist stimulus”

– I guess that would make Steve Austria 16% Marxist.

On July 28th 2009, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) spent his time in the House Chamber asking:

“Mr. President, where’s the stimulus package? Where are the jobs? […] Mr. Speaker, this is not the change the folks in Coffee County, Georgia, can use. They need jobs.”

– On the same July 28th 2008, the same Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) sent out two Press Releases taking credit for almost $250,000 worth of stimulus money toward hiring new police officers and combating violence against women, and internet crime involving children:

“We’ve seen from experience that local initiatives go a lot further toward solving local problems that policies set in Washington. This funding will provide tax relief by savings local tax dollars and, under the stewardship of Chief Livingston, will go a long way to fight crime more effectively through community policing.”

– What he means by “local initiatives” is “the Bill I am currently shouting down in the House”. Not only that, but less than two months later, the same Jack Kingston was back again, asking for even more stimulus money. According to a Press Release on his own website:

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA/01) announced today that the City of Savannah is the recipient of a series of grants from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The city will receive a community development block grant (CDBG), an emergency shelter grant (ESG) and a HOME grant to support affordable housing.

“This series of funding is essential in helping the city strengthen its low-income communities” Congressman Kingston said. “The money enables the city to give continued support to the agencies in the area that support that mission which is even more important during this tough economic period.”

– Needless to say, the Press Releases does not mention that this package comes almost entirely from the stimulus package he spent July insisting wouldn’t work, wouldn’t create jobs, and wouldn’t help the people of Georgia at all. But Kingston was finished there. After claiming credit for stimulus funds directly benefiting his constituency whilst simultaneously fighting against stimulus, he also penned this letter demanding more:

jack kingston, stimulus 2009, president obama stimulus, gop hypocrisy

It would appear that as long as you keep up the bravado of being anti-government, anti-spending, fiscally responsible to a conservative audience who are under the odd impression that the President is some sort of reincarnation of Joseph Stalin, you can simultaneously be as pro-government, pro-spending as you wish in private in the hope of taking credit for the outcome of that spending. Your district can then be shown to be job and wealth creating during difficult economic periods, whilst maintaining an anti-government spending mask, rather than telling those who benefitted from the created jobs that you fought to make sure it couldn’t happen in the first place. It is an unjustifiable, insincere rhetorical device and grave hypocrisy.


The Throne of King Cantor: How House Republicans changed the rules.

October 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Mjw23.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Mjw23.

It seems democracy isn’t an obstacle, the Constitution isn’t an obstacle, the judiciary isn’t an obstacle, and now House rules aren’t an obstacle to the Tea Party juggernaut steaming its way across the American political landscape, flattening everything its path.

As we’re all aware, the Bill for a Continuing Resolution complete with defunding Obamacare attached to it passed the House, and was subsequently rejected by the Senate, thus ending up back at the House on the evening of September 30th. At this point, under House procedures, any member of the House can bring forward a vote on the Senate’s amended Bill in order to end the impasse:

“When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.”

– This exists to prevent the minority extorting the majority with threat of shutdown, for policy they weren’t able to achieve through regular democratic process.

But that rule was soon to change. Late on September 30th – with only two hours remaining until the government shut down began – an Amendment was quickly passed – H.J. Res. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution – by House Republicans, to the procedural rules of the House. The Amendment ensures:

“Section 2 of the rule provides that any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to H.J. Res. 59 may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”

– Meaning that the only person who can now bring a vote to the House floor on a clean resolution during an impasse in Congress, is Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor has assumed powers traditionally assigned to all members of the House. They have all lost a right that has guaranteed to them, and transferred to the Republican Minority Leader. This not only disenfranchises House Democrats, it does so for moderate House Republicans too. It is as if Tea Party House Republicans have voted to bestow ’emergency’ powers on the Majority leader, to ensure continued shutdown.

When pressed on this in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD 8th District), the Speaker pro tempore didn’t seem to want to answer:

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, under the regular order of the House, would any Member of the House, including myself, be able to call up a motion to immediately send the CR to fund the government to the President of the United States, to immediately call up and have a vote on that?”
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a hypothetical.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, the rule that has now been placed over the House in substitute for the standing rules of the House gives only the majority leader or his designee the ability to move up and ask for a vote on the clean Senate bill that would go to the White House; is that correct?
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a political characterization and will state again: Under section 2 of House Resolution 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, it seems pretty clear that we have taken the normal rules of the House, Mr. Speaker, and substitute in its place a provision that says, ‘only the Republican leader can make a decision’…”
Speaker: “The gentleman has not stated a proper parliamentary inquiry.”

– Van Hollen is quite right, House Republicans have wilfully rigged House rules to prevent anyone from opening the government, other than the Majority Leader. House Republicans have vested more power over the running of the US Government in Eric Cantor, than the President, the public, the entire legislature, and the judiciary.

So, since 2010 Republicans have been beating the drum of shutdown to win major policy concessions that they were not able to win electorally. Since early 2013 at the very least, a memo circulates from Freedom Works, signed by major Tea Party donors that reads:

“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– And when that plot was doomed to fail due to the lack of moderate Republican support in the House for such a dangerous tactic, the extreme wing of the Republican Party resorted to changing the rules of the democracy that they live, in order to force a shutdown that would have been prevented under regular House rules.

It is quite horrifying the lengths the far right of the Republican Party are willing to go to circumvent the democratic process when it provides results that they don’t like. For Republicans, the American people, the ballot box, and the law of the land, are simply obstacles that the Elephant has every right to trample.