With Sponsorship of Bill Nelson, ENDA is Three Votes From Passage
When Florida Democrat Senator Bill Nelson signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on the evening of Oct. 28, he brought the legislation just three votes away from the Senate's 60-vote threshold, only days before the bill could come to the floor.
According to the Huffington Post, only two Democratic senators -- West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arkansas' Mark Pryor -- have not signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
"I am pleased to have Senator Nelson's support on this bill. Momentum is building to end LGBT discrimination in the workplace," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the bill's sponsor, told HuffPost. "This is an issue of fundamental fairness."
ENDA would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, adding these characterizations to the already-protected classes of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age and disability.
Several Republicans have also signed on as co-sponsors, among them Maine's Sen. Susan Collins, and Illinois's Sen. Mark Kirk. Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Mrukowski of Alaska did vote for the bill when it hit committee in July.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that he will bring ENDA up for a vote by Thanksgiving.
By that time, New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker will be sworn in to the Senate, bringing the number of supporters to 57. That leaves only three votes left to secure, and LGBT activists have an idea where they will come from. They are targeting New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, and Arizona's Jeff Flake. Arizona's John McCain is a possibility, as is Ohio's Rob Portman, and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey.
This is the closest the legislation has come to a vote since November 2007, when it passed the House 235-184. Activists are pleased by the forward motion of the legislation, and of Nelson's support.
"Bill Nelson joins a growing list of supporters dedicated to enacting common-sense legislation that protects workers from unjust discrimination in the workplace," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. "We welcome his support and firmly believe that it's indicative of the positive momentum this bill has as it heads to the Senate floor. We remain optimistic that the votes will be there when it matters."