Senate delays same-sex marriage vote until after midterms
The decision comes as bipartisan negotiators hoped for a vote as soon as Monday but faced trouble lining up 10 Republicans to break a filibuster.
The move to delay the vote came as a surprise to some Democrats who believed Schumer might give Baldwin and her partners more time without putting a vote off until after the election. But Baldwin, Schumer and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have all emphasized they’d rather have a successful result than a failed vote that might help Democrats politically but set back their effort to codify same-sex marriage.
Democrats had planned to hold a vote as soon as Monday, when it was unclear if there would be 10 Republican votes in support of the same-sex marriage bill. The group had finalized what they called “common-sense language that respects religious liberty and Americans’ diverse beliefs” while codifying same-sex marriage protections into law.
The five senators released a statement saying that Schumer agreed to delay the vote and vowing that when the bill comes to the floor “we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.” Justin Goodman, a spokesperson for Schumer, said he is “extremely disappointed that there aren’t 10 Republicans in the Senate willing to vote yes on marriage equality legislation at this time.”
“Leader Schumer will not give up and will hold the bipartisan group to their promise that the votes to pass this marriage equality legislation will be there after the election,” Goodman said.
The senators did not release the legislative text of their amendment after seeming to finalize the language on Wednesday. A source familiar with the effort said the group is continuing to discuss the legislative changes.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who was working on the issue from the GOP side with Rob Portman of Ohio and Susan Collins of Maine, said that “the work group believes that we had the opportunity to grow votes, and it makes sense” to take more time.
“I’m convinced that this is going to pass,” Tillis said. “The people who have been negotiating it want an outcome. I reject the idea that the timing decision was political. But quite honestly, it even takes that off the table.”
Tillis, Collins, Sinema and Baldwin all met with Schumer briefly on Thursday. Baldwin and Sinema appeared to be leaving no stone unturned in their quest for votes in the meantime, hanging out on Thursday on the GOP side of the aisle after drafting the latest version of the bill.
Yet several Republicans said this week that the measure had a much better chance to pass after the election. A number of GOP senators complained this week that if Schumer forced a vote on Monday, their 50-member conference would view it as politically motivated.
“We should have a vote when you’ve got the votes. They’ll get more votes in November and December than they get on Monday,” said retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who spoke to Baldwin earlier in the day. “If I wanted [it] to pass and I was the majority leader and I wanted to get as many votes as I could possibly get, I’d wait until after the election.”
Before Baldwin’s announcement, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had told reporters that she and a handful of other senators had finished their work hashing out changes designed to clarify religious freedom safeguards. The House-passed version of the bill, without any such clarifications added, won 47 Republican votes in July.
Some Democrats said they were fine with putting off the vote provided it leads to a positive outcome in the coming months.
“I assume that means that the votes weren’t there to pass it at this time. I think we want to pass it, so however we can do that is going to be important,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
Schumer had already allowed Baldwin, Collins, Tillis, Portman and Sinema weeks to try and finesse a bill that could get the necessary 60 votes, including 10 Republicans. He said earlier on Thursday he’s “glad to give them space to lead these negotiations, because this needs to be done and done right.”
And even before Baldwin revealed the delay, Portman and other Republicans acknowledged that they don’t yet have the 10 votes they need to break a filibuster. Still, Collins said over the last 24 hours “we’ve made a lot of progress.”