It was a chaotic scene on the House floor Thursday morning after an amendment to help protect LGBT people from discrimination failed by just one vote as Republicans succeeded in convincing a few members of their own party to switch their votes to help ensure the measure would not pass.
House Democrats could be heard chanting “shame, shame, shame” on the floor as the measure went from garnering up to 217 votes at one point down to just 212 when the vote was gaveled. Boos erupted from the House floor as the measure failed.
Republican leaders kept the vote open longer allowing members to switch their votes.
The vote was originally scheduled to only last two minutes but was held open for eight minutes.
The amendment — sponsored by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-New York, — would have prevented federal contractors from receiving government work if they discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
“Kevin McCarthy was personally twisting arms on the floor,” Maloney, who is openly gay, said about the House majority leader. He went on to say, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that craven and that ugly in my time in Congress.”
McCarthy’s office did not respond for comment.
Twenty nine Republicans kept their votes and remained supportive of the amendment along with every voting House Democrat.
Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, told reporters Republican Rep. Bob Dold, R-Illinois — who supported the amendment — approached Maloney following the vote to say what happened on the floor was “bullsh*t.”
A spokesman for Dold didn’t refute Takano’s account of the conversation.
“I am certainly crestfallen and disappointed that the result changed,” Takano said.
House Democratic leadership even tweeted out names of Republican members whom they believe switched their votes.
“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,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland released a video that was an homage to Star Wars and called Republicans the "Empire" after the vote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was holding his weekly press conference while this amendment vote was being held on the floor. When asked about Republicans switching votes so the measure would fail, Ryan told reporters he was unaware of what was going on since he was not in the chamber.
The speaker typically does not vote but Ryan made clear he opposed the amendment.
“This is federalism. The states should do this. The federal government shouldn't stick its nose in this business,” Ryan said.