House Democrats are set to move forward with legislation to expand the Civil Rights Act — a top legislative priority that faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
The bill, which would expand the 1964 law to ban discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender, is set to get a vote in the House as soon as Thursday.
House Democrats pledged shortly before last year’s midterm election that they would bring up the legislation if they won back the majority. They also gave the legislation a low bill number, H.R. 5, underscoring its importance to the House Democratic agenda.
“LGBT Americans and their families deserve to be protected against all forms of discrimination no matter where they live,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the floor. “This legislation would ban discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, education, jury service, credit and financing, and public accommodations.”
The bill is expected to receive broad support from Democrats and centrists. Two Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors — Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and John Katko (N.Y.) — and with 240 total co-sponsors, it’s all but guaranteed to pass the House this week.
But H.R. 5 has been met with sharp pushback from conservatives including groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, which have slammed the bill.
The Heritage Foundation alleged the measure could “force employers and workers to conform to new sexual norms,” “would force hospitals and insurers to provide and pay for these therapies against any moral or medical objections” and would "lead to the erasure of women.”
The Business Coalition for the Equality Act — which is made up of roughly 200 companies including Facebook, Google, Hilton and JPMorgan Chase amongst others — have announced their support for the measure.
If the bill, which was first introduced in 2015, was signed into law it would be the first national nondiscrimination law for LGBTQ Americans.
But it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where supporters would face long odds of convincing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring it up for a vote. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told NBC News earlier this year that "if you just had an up-or-down vote, we would have sufficient votes in both houses."
In 2013, the chamber, then controlled by Democrats, passed a narrower bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Four Republicans still in the Senate voted for the bill at the time: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
Only one, Collins, has backed the Senate’s version of the Equality Act. The bill has 46 co-sponsors, in addition to Merkley, leaving it short of the 60 votes it would need to defeat a filibuster.
The Senate is expected to vote on Trump’s nominee to succeed former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who stepped down from his post on Friday.
McConnell is expected to move on Monday to set up a vote on Jeffrey Rosen’s nomination for the No. 2 Justice Department spot, paving the way for the Senate to confirm him by the end of the week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Rosen’s nomination late last week on a 12-10 party-line vote.
Rosen, who was formally nominated in March, currently serves as deputy secretary of Transportation. He also previously worked in the George W. Bush administration and practiced law at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.
Democrats have raised concerns over Rosen's ascension to the deputy attorney general spot during his confirmation hearing, with questions about his qualifications and his potential role in overseeing probes spawning out of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, said shortly before the committee’s vote that she couldn't support Rosen because he would be "learning on the job" and has a "history of partisanship that risks undermining the independence that we have so badly needed."
"We also need someone who's willing to act as an independent voice for the Department of Justice; unfortunately, I am not convinced that Jeffrey Rosen is that person," Feinstein said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said she has "serious concerns" about sending Rosen's nomination to the full Senate, noting his lack of experience in the Justice Department (DOJ).
"Jeffrey Rosen with his lack of experience with the DOJ, but with his experience in Republican politics, is good for Donald Trump but not good for the country," Hirono added.
But Rosen is expected to be confirmed by the Senate later this week. Rosen needs only a simple majority and Republicans hold 53 seats.
In addition to Rosen, the Senate will vote on Michael Truncale's and Wendy Vitter’s nominations to be district judges, Brian Bulatao to be an under secretary of State and Kenneth Lee’s nomination to be a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge.
The lower chamber is slated to take up the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act this week, Hoyer confirmed on Friday.
The legislation is composed of seven bills aimed at lowering drug costs and unwinding the Trump Administration’s moves to unwind ObamaCare.
“The legislation consists of separate bills from the Energy and Commerce Committee to ban junk health plans, bring generic prescription drugs to market more quickly, provide funding for states to establish state-based marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, require and provide funding for outreach and enrollment, and fund the navigator program that assists Americans during the open enrollment period,” Hoyer said on the floor. “All of these bills, obviously, will be directed at trying to reverse some of the steps that have been taken to undermine Americans' access to affordable, quality health care.”
While a number of the bills that are part of the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act passed out of committee with bipartisan support, it’s unlikely it will see much bipartisan support on the floor or action in the Republican-controlled Senate due to certain provisions taking aim at the administration's actions toward the Affordable Care Act.
House Democrats are slated to place two bills related to Native American land rights on the floor this week after pulling them at the eleventh hour after President Trump tweeted encouraging Republicans to vote against one of the measures.
H.R. 312 would end a legal challenge to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s reservation in Massachusetts brought by opponents of its proposed casino.
“Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren,” Trump tweeted shortly before the vote was expected to take place, using his derisive nickname for Warren, a Massachusetts senator and 2020 presidential candidate. “It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”
A second bill — spearheaded by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — would have affirmed the federal government’s right to place land into a trust for a tribe’s benefit.
The bills are being rescheduled for a vote with a rule, requiring less than a two-thirds majority to send them to the Senate.
House Democrats are continuing negotiations to have special counsel Robert Mueller testify, after they had hoped to have him before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters late last week that they were still negotiating Mueller's appearance, saying "we’re talking with him and the Justice Department.”
“He will come at some point. If it’s necessary, we will subpoena him and he will come,” Nadler said later.
Democrats have been eager to hear from Mueller since he turned over his report on his two-year investigation into Russian meddling and the Trump campaign in late March.
They argue that Attorney General William Barr has misled them about the findings of Mueller's investigation, increasing the need for the special counsel to testify himself.
Barr has said he wouldn't object to Mueller testifying, but he could face new pressure, as Trump has argued the special counsel shouldn’t appear before Congress.
Mueller is still an employee of the Justice Department, meaning that Barr could instruct him not to testify or otherwise delay his testimony. The House Judiciary Committee is also scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on executive privilege and congressional oversight.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, has also asked Mueller if he wants to testify about any "misrepresentations" Barr might have made about a phone call they had after the attorney general released a four-page memo detailing the top-line conclusions of the Russia investigation.
Graham and a spokesperson for him said late last week that they hadn't yet heard back from Mueller.
The ongoing talks with Mueller come as Democrats have dug in on their fight with Barr over their demand for the entire Mueller report and the underlying documents.
The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for documents and materials related to Mueller’s investigation into Russia's election interference.
The House Judiciary Committee also voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for not complying with subpoenas for documents related to Mueller's probe.