Friday, May 20, 2016

Need two more votes

You may need a scorecard to keep the players straight. In 2014 Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people. Of course, this didn't sit well with the GOP. An amendment was inserted by Rep. Steve Russel (R-OK) into this year's Defense Authorization Bill to overturn Obama's order. As a law it would overrule executive orders. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) proposed a bipartisan amendment to overturn Russel's amendment. Yes, a GOP representative wanting to remove anti-LGBT language! The House Rules Committee refused to consider Dent's amendment.

That Defense bill went to the House floor yesterday. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY, and I think, gay) introduced an amendment from the floor to remove Russel's amendment. And voting began.

According to House procedure (as I'm told) a vote clock is open for two minutes. At the end of that time the electronic voting machine is turned off. The presiding member asks if any member wants to change their vote. If so, those members must go to the front of the chamber to switch votes.

At the end of 2 minutes Maloney's amendment had 217 yes votes and 206 no votes. GOP leaders didn't like that idea. So the clock was left open and leaders, especially Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), prowled through the chamber looking for votes to switch. This way vote switchers could do it quietly through the electronic voting system. At one point Russel shouted "Need two more votes!" As soon as the tally switched to 212-213, defeating Maloney's amendment, the vote was closed and announced.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was, of course, outraged. This will likely be a campaign issue for the vote-flippers, many of whom are in vulnerable districts. But "easily a dozen" GOP members went to Maloney and expressed disgust.

There is still reconciliation with the Senate version. And Obama has already threatened veto because of several other provisions in the bill.

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