Sep 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Senators wary of ticking clock on gay marriage vote

Sen. Susan Collins, wearing a white shirt and white jacket, stands in a Senate elevator while talking to a throng of reporters.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

Senators working to garner support for a bill to codify the right to marriage equality are openly raising concerns that the process for building Republican backing is taking longer than expected.

Why it matters: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to file for cloture on the bill on Thursday, setting up votes next week, but at least 10 Republicans will be needed to break a filibuster.

Driving the news: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she and other senators working on the bill are crafting a “consensus amendment” to address the concerns of Republican senators, specifically protecting the tax-exempt status of religious institutions.

  • Collins said it’s “encouraging” that her Republican colleagues have come in with suggestions, rather than immediately ruling out voting for the bill.
  • “We’re making progress, but it takes time … this process taking is longer than I would’ve anticipated,” she said.
  • “I think we’ll get it done,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is working with Collins on the bill, said of wrangling 10 Republican votes. “The question is timing.”

What we’re hearing: The feedback process on the bill has become more and more sprawling over time, with a growing array of Republican senators proposing their own fixes.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a key vote, told Axios he has several of his own amendments, focused on "religious freedom," that he wants incorporated into the bill.
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has been circulating an amendment as well, along with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), to protect federal funding for religious non-profits.
  • "I've been involved in a couple of these efforts in this Congress, and I think that there is a path. We just have to be responsive to the concerns ... so we can bake it into the bill and get the support we need," said Sen. Tillis.

The state of play: There is no indication at the moment that Democratic leadership will postpone the vote if more time is needed to shore up GOP support.

  • "I haven't heard that," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Axios when asked if the vote may be delayed.
  • Tillis said the possibility of cancelled sessions in the coming weeks threaten to make the timing even trickier: "The biggest issue we have now is we're hearing a lot of October will be yielded back — we won't be in session."
  • "So that would necessarily mean we would have to do it after the election if we're not successful in the next couple of days," he added.

Between the lines: Democrats see this vote as a win-win, allowing them to tout another bipartisan accomplishment if it passes and excoriate Republicans if it fails — all less than two months before the midterms.

  • "There are some dark forces encapsulated, embodied, in the MAGA Republicans, so many of whom are in this chamber, who want to take steps backward," Schumer said in a floor speech Wednesday.
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