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House Passes LGBT Measure, But Republicans Learn Nothing

House Passes LGBT Measure, But Republicans Learn Nothing

In an apparent about-face, the House approved a measure barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, but that doesn’t mean House Republicans have learned anything.

House Republican leaders did on Wednesday what they should have done last week, when they let Republican members vote as the wished on a measure aimed at upholding an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees. More than 40 Republicans joined Democrats in passing the measure 223 to 195. The measure, offered by openly gay lawmaker Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) passed by a wider margin than it did on Thursday, when the final vote appeared to be 217 to 206, with the “yes” votes prevailing, only to fail when the “yes” votes dropped to 212, after House Republican leaders held the vote open long enough to arm-twist seven Republicans who’d voted for the measure to change their votes to "no.

[The Republicans’ parliamentary shenanigans outraged Democrats](

), who accused Republican leadership of trying to protect lawmakers they’d pressured in to switching votes.

After this debacle, Republican leadership decided that perhaps they needed to rethink their position … on “open rules” in appropriations. Ryan vowed to support those “open rules,” when he took over as speaker. Designed to give rank-and-file members more of a say, the new rules — permitting any member to offer an amendment, debate it and get a vote on it — were a reaction to the Freedom Caucus’ frustration with being stifled by the top-down approach of John Boehner’s reign.

There were warnings that the freewheeling approach might allow chaos to reign. Sure enough, the new rules also allowed Rep. Maloney to present his amendment, debate it, get a vote on it. Maloney’s amendment passed, and chaos ensued because Republican leadership bent the rules in order to buy more time to change the outcome by pressuring members of their caucus to change their votes.

Naturally, the whole thing gives House Republican leadership second thoughts about “open rules.” Ryan told House Republicans on Tuesday that in the future such amendments will have to be printed ahead of time, instead of written and voted on in real time when spending bills are up for debate, as the current rules allow. After a series bungles that never would have happened under Boehner, even as bad as he was, Ryan wants to save face by trying to avoid being blindsided by any more successful progressive amendments — not by bringing his chaotic caucus under control.

That’s going to be a problem, because it’s increasingly clear that LGBT issues have transformed from a wedge issue for Republicans into a weapon for Democrats. A solid 75 percent majority of Americans support protecting LGBT Americans against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Not all Republicans can even be counted on to tow the old party line.

Pesky little amendments like Maloney’s will provoke the expected reaction from Republicans, and give Democrats an opportunity to remind voters that Republicans are out of step with the majority of Americans. Democrats’ threats to make Thursday’s vote an election issue improbably led to Wednesday’s reversal.

Not that Republicans have learned a lesson. Just before todays’ vote on an energy and water spending bill, Republicans held a private meeting to vent over the passage Maloney’s amendment. Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) opened the meeting with a prayer implying that those who supported LGBT equality “on the floor last night” went against the teaching of the Bible. Several people were upset, and at least one walled out. Then energy spending bill, including Maloney’s amendment, failed by a vote of 305 to 112. cc

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