Recess Is Over: This Week In Congress

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 bipartisan effort by Democrats and some Republicans to codify marriage equality after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

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

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.

Congress will just pass another continuing resolution (CR) and kick the can down the road to the lame-duck session after election day. Neither party wants to shut down the government ahed of early voting.

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 Sen. Collins has to wrangle nine more Republicans to join them in backing the measure, or else the bill will fall to a GOP filibuster.

Reminder: Same-sex marriage is the law of the land, recognized by a Republican-majority U.S. Supreme Court under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. For Republicans to filibuster this bill is to reject the law and the civil rights of almost one million same-sex marriages.

A U.S. Census Bureau report examined the characteristics and geographic distribution of the nation’s estimated 980,000 same-sex couple households. The report, “Same-Sex Couple Households: 2019,” is based on 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimates. The ACS is the leading source for community and local-level data.

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. [A license to discriminate?]

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 marriage 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.

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.

3 thoughts on “Recess Is Over: This Week In Congress”

  1. UPDATE: Igor Bobic reports, “Democrats Punt Same-Sex Marriage Vote Until After Midterm Elections”,

    WASHINGTON ― Democrats on Thursday announced the Senate won’t vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage until after the November midterm elections, because of insufficient support for the measure among Republicans.

    Supporters of the Respect for Marriage Act were hoping to vote on and pass the bill next week, before the Senate recesses for the month of October ahead of the elections. But senators involved in talks over the measure failed to garner at least 10 Republican votes.

    Same-sex marriage is currently legal nationwide due to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling. But given the risk of the conservative-majority court overturning its past decision, like it has on abortion, Democrats are pushing to codify same-sex marriage rights in legislation.

  2. The Respect For Marriage Act sponsors, Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Susan Collins in an op-ed write, “The Senate must stand together on marriage equality”,

    Millions of American families have come to rely on the promise of marriage equality and the freedoms, rights and responsibilities that come with making the commitment of marrying the one you love.

    But Congress has not enshrined marriage equality for same-sex and interracial marriages into law. That is why we are working to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, bipartisan legislation that is another step forward in the United States to prevent discrimination, promote equality and protect the rights of all Americans.

    Individuals in same-sex and interracial marriages need, and should have, the confidence that their marriages are legal. These loving couples should be guaranteed the same rights and freedoms of every other marriage. The American people overwhelmingly agree.

    Over the past 30 years, Americans have grown more supportive of marriage equality. In 1996, less than one-third of Americans — a mere 27 percent — supported same-sex marriages. A quarter-century later, in 2022, more than 70 percent of Americans support marriage equality, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

    We all have family, friends, co-workers or neighbors who are in these marriages. These partnerships deserve fairness and the recognition, stability and rights of marriage. They are an accepted part of American life.

    While a wedding ceremony and party are rites of passage that everyone should be able to enjoy if they wish, a legally binding marriage comes with another set of amazing rights and responsibilities. Married Americans are afforded tax benefits, often paying a lower rate. Married couples are able to receive earned benefits for spouses, such as Social Security, Medicare, disability and those from the armed services. Those who are legally married are able to visit their spouses when they are ill, while others are often not and are considered strangers under the law. In a dire circumstance when a spouse is incapacitated and unable to make their own medical decisions, their better half has the right and responsibility to make those tough decisions for them, as it should be.

    The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple, straightforward measure, only four pages in length — it is shorter than this op-ed. The bipartisan legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that allowed states and the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other states. The Respect for Marriage Act would simply require the federal government to recognize a marriage if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. It would guarantee legal marriages are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity or national origin. This legislation has earned bipartisan support in Congress because it grants same-sex and interracial couples the certainty that they will continue to enjoy the same equal treatment under federal law as all other married couples.

    Despite being fewer than 500 words, the Respect for Marriage Act has been misunderstood, leading to false assertions and mischaracterizations of its scope. This legislation would not, in fact, legalize or recognize polygamous relationships or marriages. Polygamous marriages are already illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and this bill would not authorize or recognize them.

    Moreover, religious liberty is a founding tenet of our republic, and the Respect for Marriage Act honors that principle. Our bipartisan legislation leaves intact religious liberties and protections afforded to individuals and organizations under federal law. We recognize that some might need more clarity on this point, and that is why we have worked together with our Senate colleagues to develop clarifying language to the legislation that makes it clear what the Respect for Marriage Act would not do — it will not take away or alter any religious liberty or conscience protections.

    The House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act with strong bipartisan support, and now it is a worthy use of the Senate’s time to stand together, and with the American people, in support of marriage equality.

    We have worked across party lines to bring the Senate together and build support for the Respect for Marriage Act because we should be able to agree that same-sex and interracial couples, regardless of where they live, both need and deserve the assurance that their marriage will be recognized by the federal government and that they will continue to enjoy freedoms, rights and responsibilities that come with all other marriages.

    It is time for the Senate to get the job done and pass this bill to protect marriage equality and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally under the law.

  3. The House twice passed a bill to say the ERA is the 28th amendment and the timeline is nonsense. This sessions bill is H.J.Res17. It too sits in the Senate waiting to be voted on. The ERA affects every single person in this country because it prohibits discrimination based on sex – no matter what sex. It is infuriating that they are not voting on that. Please tell Senator Schumer to vote on the H.J.Res 17 before the session ends.

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