Lame-duck Senate advances bipartisan same-sex marriage bill

The Senate on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan bill to recognize same-sex marriage nationwide and to codify some of the legal protections in the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling that made such unions a constitutional right.

It began what is expected to be a scramble to advance a variety of ongoing Democratic priorities while the party still controls the entire legislature.

Twelve Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to push the same-sex marriage measure after negotiators added an amendment protecting religious liberties. That was enough to avert a filibuster and should clear the way for final passage.

The bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and require the federal government to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Support for the legislation grew earlier this year after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion ruling.

Judge Clarence Thomas said at the time that previous rulings establishing LGBTQ rights and contraception were “provenly wrong decisions” and signaled they too could be on the chopping block from the conservative Supreme Court.

The bill would ensure some protections remain in place even if previous judgments are overturned.

The vote marked the first step by Congressional Democrats in tackling an ambitious list of Lame Duck targets.

Before the congressional recess, Democrats either turned upside down or left unresolved a number of issues they wanted to address this year, including a government spending bill, an annual defense policy bill, licensing reform, electoral reform, big-tech Antitrust legislation, aid to Ukraine, hurricane disaster relief and possibly raising the debt ceiling to avoid negotiations next year with what is likely a GOP-controlled house.

Some Republicans have already said they will insist on spending cuts on popular welfare programs like Medicare and Social Security in exchange for substantially raising the country’s debt ceiling to avoid a default.

“The debt ceiling must be reached quickly,” MP Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said. “We need to take it off the table as a negotiating tool to hold us hostage to Republicans who just have absolutely no thought for the good of the country and the world.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said “it would be nice” if the debt ceiling issue were resolved before the end of the year, but added that he doesn’t know if there is enough bipartisan support for it.

Many House Democrats said they would be prepared to stay in session beyond mid-December to pass as many laws as possible, although their top priorities outside of mandatory government spending appeared unclear.

“Eventually the clock will run out,” said Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.). “That’s just a fact. We can’t handle that. And in some places there may not be a consensus, but we have to push as much as possible.”

In a Tuesday letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the White House asked for additional funds in the next spending bill to help Ukraine in its war against Russia, recover and rebuild Helping out natural disasters and staying one step ahead of the coronavirus. Republicans remain opposed to more COVID-19 spending.

The House of Representatives passed a version of the Respect for Marriage Act in July that 47 Republicans supported. Since the Senate version was changed, the House of Representatives would have to vote again, but it’s expected to happen easily there.

A Pew Research Center poll released this week found that 61% of respondents said legalizing same-sex marriage was either “very good” or “somewhat good” for society.

Separately, on Wednesday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was re-elected as the Republican leader in the chamber, defeating a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) Lame-duck Senate advances bipartisan same-sex marriage bill

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