After seven Republicans switched their votes from “yes” to “no” Thursday on a measure that have would have protected LGBT workers from discrimination from federal contractors, Democrats quickly turned the votes into an election issue.
“House Republicans are so committed to discriminating against LGBT Americans, that they broke regular order to force their members to reverse their votes and support Republicans’ bigotry,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
[Moral Victory on Confederate Flag, Painful Defeat on LGBT Protection] The identities of the seven vote-switchers were not publicly recorded on the House floor. The amendment failed 212-213. Democrats in the House were in an uproar, shouting “Shame, Shame, Shame,” and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer protested because the presiding officer did not require that the members record the changes.
Later, Hoyer’s press office tweeted the names of seven Republicans who he believes switched their votes.
They include California Reps. Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Mimi Walters; Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, Iowa Rep. David Young and Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
Those members have yet to say whether they switched their votes.
Walden is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans.
Valadao, Young and Poliquin all face competitive re-elections, and Democrats are already pouncing on the perception that they changed their votes and allowed the LGBT protection amendment to fail.
Vulnerable Freshman Thinks Trump ‘Will Win It All’ Freshmen members Young and Poliquin are in two of the few tossup districts this year.
Poliquin faces a rematch from 2014 Democratic nominee Emily Cain in Maine’s 2nd District. Poliquin defeated Cain by just 5 points in a district that President Barack Obama carried twice.
On Thursday, Cain raised the issue in a a statement. “Maine people can count on me to be honest and open about my beliefs and my votes,” she said
EqualityMaine, a state-based LGBT advocacy group, also seized on Poliquin’s vote.
“It’s disappointing that Bruce Poliquin chose to follow the orders of Republican leadership by voting to allow discrimination against LGBT people, rather than representing the will of the Mainers he is supposed to be serving,” said Executive Director Matt Moonen.
Poliquin responded in a statement Thursday evening. “I am outraged that political opponents or members of the press would claim or insinuate that I cast a vote due to pressure or party politics. No one controls my vote. I work hard ONLY for the people of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.”
Poliquin then went on to say he supported an amendment in the defense authorization bill approved Wednesday that affords protections to “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution, or religious society” that receives a federal contract.
Some lawmakers and advocates say that language could open the door to discrimination against the LGBT community
“I abhor discrimination in any form and at any place,” Poliquin said. “I support the Russell language in the NDAA which is narrowly tailored specifically to religious institutions, guaranteeing them the same protections they receive in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”
Obama also twice carried Iowa’s 3rd District, where Young is facing a competitive re-election. He’ll face the winner of the June 7 Democratic primary.
Democrat Jim Mowrer , an Iraq War veteran running for the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s 3rd District, criticized Young in a statement.
“This is why we need new representation in Congress and why I believe so strongly in putting service to Iowans ahead of politics,” Mowrer said.
Valadao sits in a Leans Republican district in Southern California, which Democrats have made a top target in 2016.
All three lawmakers are on the NRCC’s Patriot Program , the committee’s protection program for its most vulnerable members.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to tie the Republicans’ motivation for switching their votes to an NRCC memo about the Patriot Program that was leaked last year. The memo included a provision that required members to submit a “written legislative strategy” to the NRCC.
“Republican Patriot Program members sign a contract with the NRCC giving the party control over their legislative action, and today we saw exactly why,” said DCCC Communications Director Matt Thornton. “When it came time to stand up to their party leadership, these establishment politicians quickly fell in line at the expense of the LGBT community,” he added.
The NRCC did not immediately respond for comment.
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who voted for the amendment, said it was clear some members were asked to switch their votes to protect those who didn’t want to be on the record voting for overall bill if it included the LGBT amendment.
He suggested that the aim was to protect members from safe Republican districts concerned about future primary challenges from the right.
“Members are more worried about their primaries than general elections,” he said.
Lindsey McPherson contributed.