A measure to protect LGBT Americans failed to pass the House on Thursday by a single vote after Republican leaders pressed members to change their votes.
An amendment to a Veterans Affair bill sponsored by out Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-NY) would have blocked contracts with companies that don’t comply with the Obama-era order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.
Initially the amendment had 217 “yes” votes to 208 “no” votes. (A total of 213 votes are needed for passage.) But after the clock ran out, GOP leaders held the vote open and pressed the rank-and-file to align with the party’s anti-LGBT agenda.
In the end 29 Republicans did still back Maloney’s bill but it still failed, 212-213. Maloney called it “one of the ugliest episodes I’ve experienced in my three-plus years as a member of this House.”
The amendment was designed to nullify a “religious freedom” provision in a recent defense bill that would allow religious institutions and even corporations to ignore anti-discrimination laws.
Asked if party leaders pushed Republicans to switch their votes, Speaker Paul Ryan said “I don’t know the answer,” but he defending opposing the amendment. He’s traditionally been a stickler for procedure, including the traditional two-minute vote clock. In this case, though, the vote was gaveled after seven minutes and 37 seconds—just after Republicans secured enough votes to kill the amendment.
“It tells me talk is cheap, and all this happy nonsense about letting the House do its will is just that: nonsense,” said Maloney. “They are strong-arming their own members to support discrimination… This was as black-and-white as you can get.”