In the immediate aftermath of the Orlando shooting, many Republicans leaders offered their thoughts, prayers, and sympathies to the victims, but neglected to mention that the gay community had been targeted. One of those Republicans has since taken the step of actually denying that the gay community was targeted — and then he blocked a bill that would have protected them from discrimination.
Congress has been engaged in an LGBT squabble for several weeks now. In May, Republicans forced through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would overturn President Obama’s executive order protecting the LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination. Since then, Democrats, led by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), have countered by offering bipartisan amendments that would do the opposite — affirm the executive order’s protections. One of those was narrowly defeated when the House left the vote open beyond the time limit and broke decorum by letting enough Republicans change their vote electronically.
Enter Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). As chairman of the House Rules Committee, he has the power to control which amendments can advance. This week, he was faced with another of Maloney’s amendments, attached to a defense spending bill making its way to the House floor. Before the committee’s meeting on Tuesday, Daniel Newhauser of the National Journal asked Sessions what impact the Orlando shooting would have on how the amendment proceeds. Sessions rejected the idea that it would have any impact, openly denying that Pulse was a gay nightclub:
Tuesday night, the Rules Committee heard testimony from Maloney about his amendment. Sessions thanked him for his time, but then did not call for a vote on it. The move reflects a new effort by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to clamp down on amendments that could sink spending bills — a direct response to Maloney’s efforts. Sessions did not specifically address what happened.
Maloney expressed his disappointment afterward. “It’s hard to imagine that any act that is so horrific could lead to anything positive. But if we were going to do anything, it would be a very positive step to say that discrimination has no place in our law and to reaffirm the president’s actions in this area,” Maloney told The Hill. “Seems to me a pretty basic thing to do.”