Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), the lead Democratic negotiator on the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed the House overwhelmingly in July, announced Thursday that the Senate will postpone action on the bill until after the midterm elections.
“After the election,” she said, when asked about when the bill will come to the floor.
Baldwin had said earlier this week that she wanted the legislation to come to the floor next week, even though it wasn’t assured that it would have enough votes to overcome an expected GOP filibuster.
Baldwin’s announcement came shortly after retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a key vote, said the bill would be much more likely to get 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster if it were considered after Election Day.
“If I wanted to pass that 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 to have the vote,” Blunt told reporters.
Blunt was spotted on the Senate floor speaking with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the lead Republican negotiators on the legislation, shortly before the announced delay
The bipartisan group of negotiators met Thursday morning to make a decision on whether to release the text of an amendment designed to respond to the concerns of GOP lawmakers who feared the legislation could put churches and other religious institutions at legal risk if Congress voted to codify same-sex marriage rights.
The group of senators met throughout the week to modify the legislation in an effort to muster enough votes to bring it to the floor. It became apparent by Wednesday, however, that it was losing momentum.
They released a statement Thursday afternoon announcing they would have at least 10 Republican votes for the legislation in late November or December, during the so-called lame-duck session.
“We’ve asked [Senate Majority] Leader [Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed. We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass this bill,” they said in a joint statement.
Baldwin, Portman and Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) signed it.
A spokesman for Schumer said his boss agreed to postpone action because it was clear the bill could not get enough Republican support to pass next week.
“Leader Schumer is extremely disappointed that there aren’t 10 Republicans in the Senate willing to vote yes on marriage equality legislation at this time,” said Justin Goodman, Schumer’s aide.
“Because Leader Schumer’s main objective is to pass this important legislation, he will adhere to the bipartisan group of senators’ request to delay floor action, and he is 100 percent committed to holding a vote on the legislation this year,” he added.
The legislation passed by the House would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and would require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The Supreme Court defended the right to same-sex marriage in its landmark 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled that the 14th Amendment protected the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas urged the court to review that decision and others relying on the concept of substantive due process under the 14th Amendment in his concurrence to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case, earlier this year.
Schumer’s spokesman said his boss is committed to holding a vote on marriage equality legislation “before Justice Thomas has a chance to make good on his threat to overturn Obergefell.”
The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act overwhelmingly by a vote of 267 to 157, with 47 Republicans voting “yes.”
Updated at 4:19 p.m.