Politics

Really, 30 Republicans Switched Sides on LGBT Discrimination

They supported a similar amendment last year but voted no Thursday

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, one of only 29 Republicans who supported the amendment, called on his party to oppose discrimination against LGBT people. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats are calling out the seven Republicans who switched their votes Thursday to help kill a measure protecting LGBT workers from job discrimination. But it was really 30 House Republicans who reversed course.  

Last year, 60 Republicans voted for a similar amendment upholding President Barack Obama's 2014 executive order banning federal contractors from making hiring decisions that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The amendment, which California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters attached to a transportation spending bill, was adopted 241-184 .   

On Thursday, New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, offered basically the same amendment to the military construction and veterans affairs spending bill. It failed by a single vote, 212-213 , after some Republicans switched their votes at the last minute.  

[ 7 Republicans Flipped Their Vote on LGBT Amendment, Setting Them Up for Attack ]  

Only 29 GOP members voted for the Maloney amendment Thursday; another, Wisconsin's Paul D. Ryan, voted for the Peters amendment last year but did not vote at all on Thursday. As the current speaker, he typically does not cast votes.  

Even so, Ryan indicated he would not have supported Thursday's measure.  

"This is federalism," he said. "The states should do this. The federal government shouldn’t stick its nose in this business."  

So states should determine whom federal contractors can hire?  

Perhaps Ryan was conflating the Maloney amendment with another GOP effort — challenging the White House on its recent guidance to public schools. The administration told schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity or possibly face losing federal education funds. His answer to a question on that topic was quite similar.  

[ GOP Says Obama Overreached on Transgender Bathroom Rule ]  

The furor over the transgender bathroom issue could well be one reason more Republicans are skittish about voting for employment protections for LGBT workers.  

Another could be the tone of this election cycle in which presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has proven that offensive remarks won't necessarily hurt you at the polls. Trump initially said transgender people should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice but he later walked back those comments .   

Democrats are certainly tying the House Republican's move to Trump's rhetoric. New York Rep. Steve Israel said the amendment wouldn't have failed without the narrative of hatred Trump has created.  

"I'm sure Donald Trump was very proud of House Republicans today," the New York Democrat said. "He's been vilifying from day one. They're afraid of their base. ... They live in fear of their right-wing base, and today fear prevailed over common sense.  

"When you have a Republican Party that is built on the premise of vilification, hatred and marginalization, nobody should be surprised by what happened on the floor today," Israel added. "You know, you reap what you sow."  

[ Democrats Tie Vulnerable Members to Donald Trump ]  

Some Republicans acknowledge that their party needs to shift on some of its divisive rhetoric if it wants to win elections.  

"I think it’s important for the Republican Party to make a statement against nondiscrimination in the LBGT community," said Rep. Charlie Dent.  

The Pennsylvania Republican voted for both the Maloney and Peters amendments, which he called "substantially similar."  

As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee in charge of the bill that included the Maloney amendment, Dent said he urged members not to conflate their position on the LBGT amendment and another related to display of the Confederate flag with the larger measure. However, he said it was clear some members were asked to change their votes.  

[ Moral Victory on Confederate Flag, Painful Defeat on LGBT Protection ]  

"There were those who felt that if the Maloney amendment was adopted that we would lose considerable Republican support for the bill," Dent said.  

Maloney told reporters that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was directly involved in the arm twisting. But Ryan, when asked if leadership had directed the vote switching, said, "I don't even know."  

[ LGBT Provision Divides GOP ]  

Beyond the Republicans who made the last-minute change from yes to no on the Maloney amendment, nearly two dozen other members made the conscious decision to switch their position from last year.   

David Stacy, government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, said he was "very surprised" to see so many Republicans shift their vote on "almost identical" amendments.  

"We’ve heard for a while now from House Republican leadership that they didn’t want to be engaged in attacking LBGT people this way," Stacy said. "But instead of House leadership trying to diffuse this, they seem to be ratcheting up.”  

The 30 Republicans who voted for the Peters amendment but against the Maloney amendment are:

  • Dan Benishek of Michigan
  • Susan W. Brooks of Indiana
  • Larry Bucshon of Indiana
  • Ken Calvert of California
  • Paul Cook of California
  • Rodney Davis of Illinois
  • Jeff Denham of California
  • Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin 
  • Frank C. Guinta of New Hampshire
  • Darrell Issa of California
  • Evan H. Jenkins of West Virginia
  • David Joyce of Ohio
  • Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
  • Steve Knight of California
  • David B. McKinley of West Virginia
  • Luke Messer of Indiana
  • Dan Newhouse of Washington
  • Bruce Poliquin of Maine
  • James B. Renacci of Ohio
  • Scott Rigell of Virginia
  • Dana Rohrabacher of California
  • Todd Rokita of Indiana 
  • Tom Rooney of Florida
  • Ed Royce of California
  • Pat Tiberi of Ohio
  • David Valadao of California
  • Greg Walden of Oregon
  • Mimi Walters of California
  • Don Young of Alaska
  • Todd Young of Indiana

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.