Senate negotiators push for same-sex marriage vote this month

A bipartisan group of senators are preparing changes to a marriage equality bill in a last-ditch effort to assuage Republican concerns and ensure federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages become law.

The group of five senators, led by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), is scrambling to get 10 Republicans to back the measure ahead of a scheduled vote before the chamber adjourns next month to campaign for the November elections. Senate remains last hurdle for legislation to become law: The House passed the measure in July with support of 47 Republicansa surprise to Senate Democrats who were unprepared to consider such legislation in the last half of the year.

Baldwin and Collins met the senses. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.) Wednesday morning to finalize additional language after Republicans raised concerns that the four-page proposal did not clearly mention exceptions to religious freedom.

The group believes it has the support of 10 Republican senators, or will by the time the measure is passed, which could be as soon as next week, according to three Senate aides familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity. to discuss private conversations. But those Republicans won’t announce their support for the legislation before the vote, so they can be shielded from attacks that might cause them to vote otherwise.

That confidence prompted Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to announce Wednesday that a vote on the bill would take place “in the coming weeks,” a firm deadline that will force Republicans to decide before mid-terms.

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The Respect for Marriage Act enshrine federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which recognizes marriages between a man and a woman in the United States.

Passage of the legislation would mark the first time Congress has approved protections for marriage equality, a significant feat for a body that has previously voted to limit such rights. The push to codify same-sex marriage has become more urgent for liberals after Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade this summer, motivating Democrats to hold a vote on the issue and shield the right from future challenges.

Baldwin and Collins said they were working to add new language that would clarify that the bill would not infringe on religious freedom, a major concern for some Republican senators, including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) , which is considered essential for its adoption. .

“I’m continuing to work on that and that’s the area of ​​my focus,” Romney told reporters Tuesday, ducking whether he would support the bill if the religious freedom provisions were included.

The change would also address Conservative concerns that the bill is too broad and leaves room for interpretation that could lead to federal recognition of polygamous relationships. Collins said that was being fixed “even though there isn’t a single state that allows polygamous marriages.”

However, the Senate remains the main obstacle because some Republicans who have called for religious freedom considerations are already saying they will not support the legislation even with the change. Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) echoed many Republicans who believe Democrats are prioritizing politics by voting to codify “something that has already been upheld by the court.”

In got audio Per Heartland Signal, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told a rally in Wisconsin last week that he would not support the legislation “as it stands,” even though he told reporters last month that he had no reason to oppose this. He said he would introduce his own amendment alongside Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) if the bill is introduced.

“We have enough problems to divide this nation. Let’s not drag this back,” Johnson said of Democrats revisiting same-sex marriage. “I’m not happy for the Baldwins of the world to open this wound.”

In response to Republicans claiming the vote is political, Baldwin, who is gay, laughed, then said, “It’s not. It is very real for many people.

Tillis said there is plenty of time to educate his fellow Republicans on what this bill actually does, which he says is just as important as approving these technical fixes.

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Because GOP support in the Senate remains in question, senior Senate Democrats earlier this week considered tying the legislation to a sweeping government funding bill due to pass this month to prevent a government shutdown. That idea was quickly dismissed by Republicans when they returned to Washington on Tuesday, with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) simply telling reporters that “yes,” it would be a problem for Republicans if Democrats politicized the bill. financing law.

But members of the bipartisan group were also caught off guard, according to several aides, expressing extreme dissatisfaction with the idea because it could kill their efforts to onboard Republicans. Baldwin, who is widely considered the senator leading the negotiations, has repeatedly told reporters that strapping the bill to any vehicle is “not her preferred path.”

“It would lose us Republican support in my opinion, and it’s also not appropriate for a policy bill of this type,” Collins said.

Senators are pushing to pass the legislation sometime next month before the midterm elections to serve as another bipartisan notch for this term in Congress. Discussions are ongoing on how to include the new text in the bill, as adding it through an amendment process would mean devoting more speaking time to the manner, which the chamber does not did not during this session.

Any changes to the current legislation would also mean that the House would have to pass it again, which shouldn’t be a complicated matter. Aides to the Democratic leadership, however, note that it is too early to know when they will be able to pass the legislation since they will return to Washington next week.

In a Washington Post Editorial On Tuesday, Baldwin and Collins reiterated that supporting the legislation would reflect the belief of most Americans that supporting marriage equality is a no-brainer and said aspects of the four-page bill had been “misunderstood, leading to false assertions and misinterpretations of its scope”.

“We have worked across party lines to rally the Senate and build support for the Respect for Marriage Act because we should be able to agree that same-sex and interracial couples, regardless of location of residency, both need and deserve the assurance that their marriage will be recognized by the federal government and that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights and responsibilities that accompany all other marriages,” the senators wrote.

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