Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with Senate Democrats on the passage of ENDA – Nov. 7, 2013

Partial transcript of press briefing Q&A with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on the Senate’s passage of S. 815 Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA), which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 64 to 32. The press briefing was held on Nov. 7, 2013:

Question:
…The bill of course exempts employers with fewer than 15 employees, presumably many of the 29 states that don’t already have this protection already…Does this bill, aside from a bit of moral victory, actually accomplish anything for gay and lesbian and transgender people who need this protection?

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon):
Absolutely, it accomplishes a huge amount. In 29 states, the lesbian, gay and bisexual community can be discriminated against. In 33 states, the transgender community can be discriminated against. And in terms, there are so many businesses throughout the entire spectrum for which this sets a national standard for non-discrimination. And I think that that ethic embodied throughout this bill and this vision will certainly have substantial influences even on the very small businesses that you’re considering. So I think this bill does in fact make a huge, huge difference, and I hope the House will move – move quickly to put it on the floor.

Question:
Senators, if the House doesn’t act, would you urge the President to act unilaterally?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
You’ll have to ask the President that. I don’t know what authority or power he has but I’m sure he’s exercised his administrative in previous occasions when we had legislative logjams, and that’s what the Senate Republicans and certainly the Republicans in the House better come to realize. There’s more than one way of skinning a cat, and they’ve just got to stop stopping everything that comes along.

Question:
Sen. Reid, one of the bills locked up in that room is immigration reform. At what point is the Democratic leadership going to start putting more pressure on Boehner and the House to act on immigration reform?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
Well, we’ve put plenty of pressure on them. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t say something about the immigration bill being held up. But Sen. Schumer is working with people in the House who want to do a bill, and there are ways of getting that done. And we hope that his patience – Sen. Schumer’s patience – will work because we – the reason that’s so troubling me, I mentioned on the floor again today – they’re obsessed with cutting spending even though we’ve cut $2.6 trillion. Do comprehensive immigration reform. It’s a $1 trillion. I just don’t – I’m flabbergasted as to why they’re stopping everything the American people want.

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