House GOP leaders block LGBT vote after Orlando shooting

House GOP leaders won’t allow a vote this week on a proposal to ensure that federal contractors can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is gay, filed an amendment to a Defense Department spending bill that would enforce a 2014 executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people. The Defense bill is slated to hit the House floor this week in the aftermath of the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando.

But the House Rules Committee, which serves as an arm of majority leadership in deciding how legislation is considered on the floor, did not green-light Maloney’s amendment for a vote Tuesday night.

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Sunday’s shooting, which took place during LGBT Pride Month, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Maloney argued that allowing a vote to prohibit discrimination in the workplace after the targeted attack on the gay nightclub would send a message of solidarity with the LGBT community.

“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.” 

The shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday that killed 49 people and injured 53 more has been deemed by federal authorities as both a terrorist attack and a hate crime. FBI Director James Comey said the suspected shooter had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) during a 911 call before he was shot dead by police.

Two centrist Republicans, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.), signed onto Maloney’s amendment as co-sponsors. 

House GOP leaders decided to clamp down on amendments to annual spending bills after Maloney’s proposal threatened passage of other appropriations measures last month. Before now, Republicans had been considering appropriations bills under a procedure allowing members of either party to offer unlimited amendments. 

Maloney offered the same amendment to a Department of Veterans Affairs spending bill last month. That resulted in GOP leaders pressuring Republicans to switch their votes at the last minute so that the amendment failed by a single vote.

A week later, Maloney reprised his amendment to an Energy Department spending bill. The House adopted his amendment on the second round after 43 Republicans joined all Democrats in support.

The next day, the underlying Energy Department spending bill collapsed on the House floor because many conservatives with concerns about religious freedom exemptions wouldn’t vote for it with Maloney’s amendment attached. Most Democrats also opposed the bill’s spending levels and other GOP amendments to counter Maloney’s proposal.

After those two incidents, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.) decided to limit which amendments to spending bills get votes in order to prevent the entire appropriations process from being jeopardized. 

Most bills considered in the House are typically done so under a limited amendment process, but appropriations bills have been the exception until recently.

In an appearance before the House Rules Committee to make the case for his amendment, Maloney compared his proposal to last year’s racially motivated shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., that led to restrictions on displaying the Confederate flag.

“They also responded by acting and by recognizing that symbols and language matter,” Maloney said. “Because hate has no place in our flags, in our workplace, or in our country. And it should have no place in federal law.”

Earlier in the day, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) came under fire for incorrectly claiming that the Orlando nightclub was not a gay club.

"It was a young person's nightclub, I'm told. And there were some [LGBT people] there, but it was mostly Latinos," Sessions told a National Journal reporter.

Sessions’s office later clarified that he meant some heterosexual people were at the club for a Latin-themed night. 

House GOP leaders made a show of returning to an open amendment process upon taking the majority in 2011. Although Democrats have cried foul over Ryan’s move, they decided to limit amendments for spending bills while controlling the House as well. 

Maloney also filed his amendment to a spending bill for legislative branch operations last week, which has always been considered under a limited process. House GOP leaders did not allow a vote on his amendment at that time, either.