2008 Reichert’s Reversal
posted by November 15 at 15:21 PMon
Rep. Dave Reichert (R-8) voted for ENDA last week. ENDA is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which protects gays and lesbians in the workplace.
Reichert broke with his two Republican colleagues from Washington State to support the House bill. In fact, only 35 Republicans (out of 200) voted in favor of the bill.
Ideologically, it seems like an odd vote for Reichert. The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, gave him a lousy 25% rating last session. I’ve got a call into his office to get his thinking on the vote.
But it does make sense politically. In fact, it makes a lot of sense.
Reichert’s Eastside district and its major employer (Microsoft) are liberal on social issues like gay rights. Microsoft spokesperson Lou Gellos told me the company is “pleased by the passage of the bill.”
Reichert is in the race of his life next year, facing a well-funded Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, in a year that one imagines will be hostile to Bush Republicans.
Also last week: To a noticeably startled Seattle audience, Reichert sent a pre-recorded statement opposing Federal Communications Commissioner Kevin Martin’s media consolidation proposal. His statement was an eloquent defense of “diversity” in the face of corporate control. (I’ve linked his statement below.)
Additionally, Reichert recently supported the move to override Bush’s SCHIP veto.
The question is: Are these moves in earnest? The ENDA bill, for example, was going to pass the House anyway. It passed 235-184. Similarly, the votes weren’t there to override Bush SCHIP veto. So, he was safe throwing out the “challenge.”
However, he can still claim on the campaign trail that on signature issues—gay rights and children’s health care—he voted with his increasingly liberal district.
So, the other question is: Will the voters be persuaded that he’s really with them?
Update: Here’s what Reichert’s press secretary Abigail Shilling says about Rep. Reichert’s vote for ENDA:
When dealing with this issue as well as the issue of hate crimes legislation, the Congressman relies on his experience as the Sheriff of King County. As the Sheriff, he dealt with this issue firsthand, and understands that federal law must employ fairness and equality on all fronts, especially in the workplace. This was his policy as Sheriff and it remains that today. He believes in equality of opportunity, that an individual should have an equal chance for success through hard work, without being denied their rights in the workplace, simply by virtue of who they are.
Reichert has an annoying tendency to make everything about his role as the Sheriff, but the last sentence is certainly compelling.
Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome the FCC Commissioners and all the attendees at today’s hearing to Seattle, WA. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few words with you and I regret that the Congressional schedule did not allow me to be with you today for this important discussion on media ownership.
“Relaxing restrictions on media ownership is clearly not in the public interest. It seems strange that we must create rules in order to maintain diversity, yet, as Americans, we all know that freedom is not free. Our Founding Fathers had the foresight to create a great foundation of democracy in this country, and I’m proud to contribute my time working to protect those freedoms. American corporations create opportunities for us, creating jobs, fueling the economy and keeping our country competitive in this globalized era. But when it comes to media ownership, allowing these companies to simply take over can have the adverse effect of limiting the information available to local consumers.
“Localism and diversity are the cornerstones of our democratic society. Localism enhances the public’s informed participation in our democracy, and a diverse media market reduces the risk that news will be censored or slanted by a few controlling interests. As the Supreme Court has stated, “the purpose of the First Amendment [of the Constitution] is to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail,” and the right of the public to receive unbiased access to news and ideas should not “abridged by either Congress or by the FCC.” It is essential to the health of our democracy to ensure that this right is protected.
“Today is the sixth and final public forum being conducted by the FCC on media ownership issues, prior to a potential vote later this year on new rules that will govern media consolidation. The rules adopted by the FCC will have a tremendous impact on the news coverage and variety of information available to communities across the United States. It is fitting that this final forum is being held here in Seattle, home to one of the largest remaining family and locally owned newspapers in America, The Seattle Times, which has exemplified commitment to and the power of localism. I thank the Commissioners for holding these forums. It is essential that the concerns of the American public be considered before making any changes to our current laws.”