This week: Marriage equality, House Dem leadership and FTX scrutiny

U.S. Capitol
Peter Afriyie
U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front on Thursday, September 8, 2022.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misidentified the committee looking into the collapse of FTX this week.

The Senate is on track to pass a bill protecting same-sex marriage on the federal level this week, notching a significant bipartisan victory in the lame-duck session following months of negotiations on Capitol Hill.

Senators are scheduled to invoke cloture on the Respect for Marriage Act on Monday, which would end debate and put the bill on the path to final passage.

On the House side, Democrats are set to huddle this week to elect leaders for the 118th Congress after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her two lieutenants announced that they would not seek the top three roles next year.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will continue trying to shore up support for his bid to replace Pelosi as Speaker when Republicans take control in January.

And on Thursday, a Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the collapse of crypto exchange FTX.

Senate on track to pass marriage equality bill

The Senate is on course to pass the Respect for Marriage Act this week, capping off months of negotiations that began after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this summer called for the reversal of the ruling that enshrined LGBTQ rights.

The chamber is scheduled to hold a vote to invoke cloture on the bill at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, which would end debate on the measure. If the procedural vote passes, which is likely, the legislation could come to the floor for final passage as early as Wednesday or Thursday.

A bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement on the Respect for Marriage Act on Nov. 14, rolling out an amendment that outlines protections for religious liberties, in order to secure enough GOP votes. The amendment would protect nonprofit religious organizations from providing services that support same-sex marriage, and it would safeguard religious liberty and conscience protections under federal law and the Constitution.

The chamber advanced the bill that week in a bipartisan 62-37 vote. Twelve Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure, which is enough to overcome a legislative filibuster.

Once the bill passes the Senate, however, it will have to go back to the House for final approval after Senators added the religious liberty amendment. The lower chamber cleared the measure in a bipartisan 267-157 vote in July, with 47 Republicans voting “yes” with all Democrats.

If the Senate approves the bill and sends it back to the House, the lower chamber will likely clear the measure and deliver it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

House Democrats to vote on leadership

House Democrats are holding leadership elections on Wednesday and Thursday where they are expected to instill a new top brass after Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced that they would not seek the three highest positions in the next Congress, paving the way for a new generation of Democrats to take on the reins of the caucus.

Democrats will first vote for caucus chair, which Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) is running for unopposed. The California Democrat, who currently serves as vice chair of the Democratic caucus, announced his bid for the third-ranking role earlier this month.

Aguilar’s path to the position cleared after Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) dropped out of the race to instead run for chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) — a new position that the party is expected to create as part of its internal rules changes for the next Congress. He is currently one of four DPCC co-chairs.

Aguilar, who was initially eyeing the assistant leader position, decided to run for caucus chair after Clyburn announced his intent to remain in leadership as assistant leader. The South Carolina Democrat remains unopposed.

The shuffling of candidacies also came with a restructuring of the caucus’ top brass. When Democrats were last in the minority, the assistant leader role was the No. 3 position and caucus chair was No. 4, but in the next Congress, those two will be flipped.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the current chair of the Democratic caucus, is running unopposed for House Democratic leader, putting him in line to replace Pelosi at the top of the caucus.

If Jeffries is elected to the top spot in the caucus, he would be the first Black leader in either party and either chamber in the history of Congress.

Behind Jeffries, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the current assistant Speaker, is running unopposed to be Democratic whip in the next Congress, which would make her the second-ranking lawmaker in the caucus.

This week’s elections will mark the first Democratic leadership shake-up in nearly two decades. When announcing her decision to step aside from leadership in the next Congress, Pelosi said the time had come for a “new generation” of leadership to take form.

McCarthy searches for Speakership support

In the House Republican Conference, McCarthy this week will continue working to shore up support in his pursuit of the Speaker’s gavel. The current minority leader announced his candidacy for Speaker one day after the midterms, when it was still unclear which party would hold the majority next year.

Republicans are currently projected to control 220 seats in the House next year, giving them control of the chamber in the 118th Congress. Democrats are projected to hold 213 seats, and two races remain uncalled.

With that slim margin, McCarthy can only afford to lose a handful of GOP votes and still win the Speakership.

He won the conference’s nomination for Speaker in a 188-31 vote, staving off a challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Five lawmakers voted for other candidates.

McCarthy will need to secure a majority of all House members who cast a vote for a Speaker candidate when his nomination comes to the floor next month. Around five Republicans have already signaled that they will not support him at that time.

Senate committee to hold hearing into FTX collapse

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Thursday examining the collapse of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange that declared bankruptcy earlier this month.

FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11 after disclosing that it lost billions of dollars in user deposits by making high-risk bets through its affiliated trading firm, Alameda Research. The company’s chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried, resigned.

The cryptocurrency exchange was valued at $32 billion at one point. Investors are now facing as much as $8 billion in losses, and the price of bitcoin and other digital assets fell in the aftermath of the bankruptcy.

Rostin Behnam, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is also scheduled to testify.

The House Financial Services Committee has also announced a hearing on the FTX collapse that will take place in December. In a statement announcing the hearing, the committee said it “expects to hear from the companies and individuals involved,” including FTX, Bankman-Fried and Alameda Research, among others.

And last week, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice calling for a criminal investigation looking into the “fraudulent tactics” of Bankman-Fried.

— Updated at 6:15 a.m.

Tags Biden Clarence Thomas Hakeem Jeffries Katherine Clark Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Pete Aguilar
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