WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday again signaled that President Barack Obama has no plans to take executive action to ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, even as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he won't let related legislation get a vote.
Executive action won't go far enough, administration officials routinely argue, because Obama only has the ability to ban discrimination among government contractors. Instead, the White House wants Congress to pass a bill addressing the issue more comprehensively -- and there's legislation that would do just that, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But Boehner has said he opposes ENDA, and The Washington Blade reported this week that he told members of the LGBT caucus there's "no way" he'll bring it to the House floor this year. The measure already passed the Senate in November.
Carney said Friday that the president will just keep his fingers crossed that Boehner changes his mind.
"I would suggest that there have been occasions when leaders in the House have declared something won't happen and it happens anyway, and we certainly hope that's the case here," he said during his daily briefing.
"One person's opposition to it in the House does not dissuade us from pressing for its passage," Carney said. "We're going to keep pushing for it."
A request for comment from Boehner's office was not returned.
The president has used the same Congress-must-act logic on other fronts, only to move forward with executive action anyway. After years of pressure from immigration rights groups, Obama issued an executive action in June 2012 to end deportations of some younger undocumented immigrants and grant work permits. Earlier this week, despite his calls on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, the president announced executive action to raise the minimum wage for government contractors.
If he did take executive action on ENDA, it would protect as many as 16 million contractors. As it stands, it is currently legal in 33 states for an employer to fire or harass someone for being LGBT.
House Democratic leaders have said the issue is a no-brainer. Asked earlier this week if Obama should act on ENDA himself, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply said, "Of course."
UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. -- John Podesta, a top Obama adviser and the founder of the Center for American Progress, said later Friday that the possibility of an ENDA executive order remains "under consideration."
"There is no real argument against non-discrimination in the workplace," Podesta said in an interview on "Political Capital with Al Hunt" set to air Friday night. "We've been putting forward the effort to try to get a comprehensive ENDA through the Congress. We'll see whether that's possible. If it's not, I think we'll have to take a look at whether we do it in the federal workforce."