This week: Senate to move on marriage equality, House reconvenes

U.S. Capitol
Peter Afriyie
The U.S. Capitol, around sunset on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

The Senate is expected to “start the process” for considering a bill to protect same-sex marriage on the federal level this week, marking the culmination of a months-long effort by Democrats and some Republicans to codify marriage equality after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The House passed the marriage equality bill, titled the Respect for Marriage Act, in a 267-157 vote in July, sending the measure to the Senate for consideration. The 47 Republican “yes” votes fueled Democratic hopes that the legislation could eventually land on President Biden’s desk.

The Senate is also expected to continue conversations regarding government funding, which has to be passed by Sept. 30 or else Washington will shut down.

On the House side, lawmakers are returning to the Capitol on Tuesday after the August recess with a full agenda for the final month of legislating.

Lawmakers are pressing leadership for a vote on legislation banning lawmakers from trading stocks, three new members will be sworn into the House following special elections, and lawmakers are slated to vote on a resolution honoring Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at the age of 96.

Senate to ‘start the process’ on marriage equality

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), both sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, told reporters last week that the Senate will “start the process” on the marriage equality legislation this week, kicking off the final step to sending the legislation to Biden for approval.

The senators did not specify how the process would begin, but the first step toward a Senate vote would be filing for cloture.

But first, Democrats and Collins have to wrangle nine more Republicans to join them in backing the measure, or else the bill will fall to a GOP filibuster.

It is unclear if they will get there, but those close to the negotiations are confident that the bill will cross the finish line.

There are currently two Republicans publicly in the “yes” column: Collins and Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), another sponsor of the bill who is retiring at the end of this term. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) previously told reporters that he “probably will” vote for the bill.

Additional GOP support could come from an amendment that would address concerns about the bill raising legal problems for religious groups that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Negotiators are expected to finalize those details this week. A number of Republicans have not yet signaled how they will vote on the legislation.

The Respect for Marriage Act would require that a person be considered married if the nuptials were legal in the state where it was performed. It would also allow the attorney general to pursue law enforcement actions and give individuals harmed by a violation of the law a private right of action.

Additionally, the legislation calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that former President Clinton enacted in 1996 that says marriage is “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last week said the upper chamber would vote on the marriage equality bill “in the coming weeks.”

Senate continues work on government funding

Senators are expected to continue working on funding the government this week, as the chamber barrels toward the Sept. 30 deadline.

Lawmakers are looking to pass a continuing resolution to keep Washington functioning, which would keep the government funded at the previous year’s spending levels, giving Congress more time to strike a deal. The stopgap is expected to stretch past the midterms and into December.

The focus of government funding talks right now is a measure on permitting reform that Schumer and other party leaders struck with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to ensure his support for the Inflation Reduction Act, which the Senate passed and Biden signed into law last month.

Schumer told reporters last week that it is his “intention” to include the permitting reform deal in the continuing resolution — but that plan is causing a divide in the Democratic Party.

“I rise this morning to express my strong opposition to the so-called side deal that the fossil fuel industry is pushing to make it easier for them to pollute the environment and destroy our planet,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on the Senate floor last week.

He and other progressives in the House are opposing the measure, which is expected to expedite the development of fossil fuel and other energy products by setting maximum timelines for environmental reviews, among other provisions.

Last week, more than 70 House Democrats — led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) — penned a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asking that the permitting reform legislation be kept out of the continuing resolution.

Schumer could include the marriage equality bill in the continuing resolution, which would make it difficult for progressives to vote “no,” but the Democratic leader and Baldwin, a key sponsor, have both said they prefer a separate vote on the measure. Tucking the same-sex marriage bill into the continuing resolution could also decrease GOP support for government funding, threatening a shutdown.

The Senate this week is also scheduled to vote on a number of judicial nominations.

House reconvenes, eyes stock trading ban

The House is scheduled to reconvene in Washington on Tuesday evening, officially putting an end to the August recess and kicking off the chamber’s final month of legislating before the November midterm elections. The chamber is not slated to be in session in October.

A bipartisan coalition of House members are pushing for a vote on legislation to ban lawmakers from trading stocks, which has gained traction among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a letter to House leaders earlier this month, the group — led by Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) — laid out a consensus framework to reform lawmaker stock trading practices, and requested a floor vote by Sept. 30. Those in the group have previously introduced their own versions of legislation to address lawmaker stock trading.

The framework says any legislation pertaining to lawmaker stock trading should prohibit all members of Congress, their spouses and minor dependents from “owning or trading securities, commodities, futures, derivatives, options, or other similar financial assets, including where such investments are traded through an investment vehicle that the covered person controls.”

It also calls for covered individuals to divest their investments, place them in a Qualified Blind Trust, or move them to diversified mutual or exchange-traded funds, U.S. Treasury bills, notes or bonds.

New lawmakers sworn in; vote on Queen Elizabeth II resolution

The House on Tuesday is scheduled to swear in three new lawmakers who secured seats in Congress in recent special elections.

First on the list is former Alaska state Rep. Mary Peltola, who won a special election in Alaska last month to finish the late-Rep. Don Young’s (R-Alaska) term in the House. Young, who was the Dean of the House — a title given to the longest-serving member of Congress — died in March at the age of 88.

Peltola flipped the longtime Republican-held seat in an upset victory, besting former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and others in the ranked-choice system.

Peltola is now the first Alaska Native to win a congressional election and she will be the first woman to represent Alaska’s single House seat.

Democrat Pat Ryan, who won a special election in New York’s 19th Congressional District last month, is also slated to be sworn in on Tuesday. Ryan is replacing former Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), who resigned from the House in May to become lieutenant governor of the Empire State.

Ryan beat Republican Marc Molinaro in the swing-district race that many saw as a bellwether for how the midterm elections will shake out in November.

Third on the swearing-in list is Joe Sempolinski, a Republican who won a special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District last month to finish former Rep. Tom Reed’s (R-N.Y.) term. Reed resigned from Congress in May, which was more than a year after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct.

Sempolinski defeated Democrat Max Della Pia for the seat.

Also on Tuesday, the House is slated to pass a bereavement resolution to honor Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, according to Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill. The House will then adjourn for the day.

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Elizabeth II Joe Biden Rob Portman Susan Collins

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