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Marriage equality gets punted to the lame-duck
The group of senators rallying support for the Respect For Marriage Act believe 10 Republican votes will be easier to find without the pressure of an election hovering over them.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The upcoming congressional lame-duck session just got a little more interesting.
A bipartisan group of senators announced they would delay a vote on legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriage until after the midterm elections this November. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was expected to file a motion to set up a procedural vote today, which would have slated a final vote for as early as next week. But the senators believe that at least 10 Republicans are more likely to support the bill without the pressure of an election and will now pause until the work period before the next Congress convenes in January.
“We’ve asked Leader Schumer for additional time and we appreciate he has agreed,” Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio and Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in a joint statement. “We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill.
Spokesperson Justin Goodman said that while Schumer agreed to delay floor action because his main objective is to pass marriage equality legislation he is extremely disappointed that there aren’t 10 Republicans willing to vote for the bill now.
You’re not mistaken if you were under the impression that marriage equality was settled law. The Supreme Court in 1967 unanimously ruled in Loving v. Virginia that a Virginia law banning interracial marriage violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote at the time.
Almost five decades later, the court in 2015 in a 5-4 decision held that 14th Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state. “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Justice Clarence Thomas disagreed with Kennedy then and still does, as revealed by the pitiful concurring opinion he wrote in the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. The 74-year-old George H. W. Bush appointee argued that the Supreme Court has a duty to “correct the error” established in the precedents that protect the right of married people to obtain contraceptives, the right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts, and the right to same-sex marriage. If given the chance, equality advocates in Congress and at the grassroots believe the court’s conservative supermajority would reverse those decisions leaving millions of people in the same kind of distress pregnant people now feel in the aftermath of the fall of Roe. (Clarence Thomas is married to a white woman, by the way.)
House Democrats didn’t want to leave marriage equality to chance so they passed the Respect For Marriage Act in July, which would enshrine same-sex marriage and interracial marriage into law. All 50 Senate Democrats expressed their support for the legislation and the White House confirmed President Joe Biden would sign it. A few Republicans even said they didn’t see a reason to oppose the legislation. After all, seven in 10 Americans support same-sex marriage and three in five support Congress passing a law to protect it.
Then news broke of the deal between Schumer and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin that would become the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate, tax and health care bill that capped a summer of major legislative wins for Democrats that have jolted President Biden’s poll numbers and inspired a swagger among party leaders. The agreement blindsided Republicans who up to that point had praised Manchin for blocking a sprawling package of social-safety-net reforms the previous year. But now, the few Republicans who were primed to vote for the RFMA found themselves hesitant to give Democrats another victory that could alienate their conservative base.
“[Leader Schumer] is 100 percent committed to holding a vote on the legislation this year before Justice Thomas has a change to make good on his threat to overturn [Obergefell v. Hodges],” Goodman, Schumer’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “Just like he has persisted for the last two years on legislation that no one thought could pass, Leader Schumer will not give up and will hold the bipartisan group to their promise that the votes to pass this marriage equality legislation will be there after the election.”
The negotiations, I’m told, were fragile even after Democrats agreed to add clarifying language to ensure the religious protections already on the books remained intact. Sen. Baldwin, the lead senator whipping support for the legislation, is still optimistic that the bill will ultimately pass.
“The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple but important step which provides certainty to millions of Americans in loving marriages,” the group of senators said in their statement. “Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language that respects religious liberty and Americans’ diverse beliefs, while upholding our view that marriage embodies the highest ideals of love, devotion and family.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning received his daily intelligence briefing before he greeted the negotiators who brokered the railway labor agreement in the Oval Office and gave a speech on the agreement in the Rose Garden. This afternoon, Biden hosted and delivered a keynote speech at the United We Stand Summit. This evening, the president will attend the Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala to kick off the White House's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. He will return to the White House tonight.
Vice President Harris this morning delivered welcoming remarks at the United We Stand Summit then hosted a multilateral meeting at the Blair House with the leaders of Suriname, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden traveled to Los Angeles to speak at a Democratic National Committee event on Friday and visit Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Café, a bakery and café part of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff traveled to Pennsylvania with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as part of the Department's back-to-school bus tour. In Allentown, PA, Emhoff and Cardona held a roundtable on student mental and physical health. In Philadelphia, they spoke about the benefits of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to educators and union members who can use the program to help with their student loans.
The House is in and passed the Preventing a Patronage System Act, which prevents any position in the federal competitive service from being reclassified without the express consent of Congress, and the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act.
The Senate is in and voted to confirm Sarah Merriam to be US Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit and David Pekoske to be Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
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IN THE KNOW
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will represent the US at the G7 Speakers’ Summit in Berlin, Germany. She will deliver a keynote address on the urgency and importance of the G7 nations’ continued unity against Russian President Vladimir Putin for his war in Ukraine and provide an update on the support provided by the Biden administration and Congress. The G7 includes the US, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Canada.
President Biden came for Donald Trump in his United We Stand Summit speech. “When the last guy was asked, ‘What do you think?’” Biden said of Trump’s handling of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. “He said he thought there were some fine people on both sides.
“Unfortunately such hate-fueled violence and threats are not new to America. There’s a throughline of hate from massacres of indigenous people to the original sin of slavery, the terror of the Klan to anti-immigration violence against the Irish, Italians, Chinese, Mexicans — so many others laced through our history,” Biden said. “And there’s a throughline of violence against religious groups: Antisemitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh. And, look folks, that through line of hate never truly goes away.”
Biden said that the event was arranged after the mass murder of 10 black people in May at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
“White supremacists will not have the last word,” Biden said. Read Biden’s statement on International Day of Democracy
President Biden called into the railway labor negotiations around 9 p.m. on Wednesday night to say a shutdown of railways was unacceptable, per a White House official. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh called the White House at 2 a.m. this morning to say there appeared to be a deal after days of discussions between rail companies and unions representing conductors and engineers. (Biden wasn’t on that call.) Walsh led 20 hours of negotiations in the final stretch with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg working the phone during the talks too, the official said.
The rail companies accepted the workers’ demand for paid sick leave. (FWIW, the workers only got one day despite requesting 15 days.) The two sides had until Friday at midnight to reach an agreement before the workers went on strike. Read Biden’s statement on the deal
Related: During the president’s Rose Garden remarks, one labor rep told reporters that the group didn’t sleep last night while in talks at the Labor Department and that he was pleasantly surprised to get invited to the White House.
President Biden on Friday will meet with the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Both Griner and Whelan remain jailed in Russia. The separate meetings will be the first in-person conversations with Biden as his administration works to secure their loved ones’ releases.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the meetings are an opportunity for Biden to express to the families that their loved ones are still top of mind as negotiators work behind the scenes to broker a prisoner exchange with Russia.
Weekly unemployment claims dropped 5,000 from last week to 213,000, according to the Labor Department. The White House has pointed to low unemployment as an indicator of a robust economy amid Republican attacks that the US is in a recession.
White House Hispanic Media Director Luisana Pérez Fernández joined this afternoon’s press briefing to kick off the start of Hispanic Heritage month. “When we honor the rich history and values the Hispanic community contributes to our nation, we reaffirm that diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths,” she said in Spanish before Jean-Pierre translated her remarks.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $9 million to provide rental assistance and supportive services to Native American veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The Department said approximately 400 Native American vets are housed under the program that combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Related: HUD also awarded $9 million to provide tenant-based rental assistance and supportive services to an estimated 218 households where one or more members are living with HIV/AIDS.
The uninsured rate of full-time year-round workers rose 0.6 percentage points in 2021, according to the Census Bureau. The increase is due to occupations such as food service and construction that are less likely to provide private health coverage to employees. But these numbers, along with the inflation report from Tuesday, are likely to encourage the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates.
The Justice Department established three strike force teams to enhance the agency’s efforts to combat and prevent COVID-19-related fraud. DOJ’s work in this area has included cases and investigations involving the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs, and COVID-19 health care fraud enforcement. Read the announcement
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau announced it will hold Buy Now, Pay Later lenders to many of the baseline protections that Congress has already established for credit cards and are subjected to appropriate federal scrutiny. The CFPB also published a report that found the BNPL industry grew rapidly during the pandemic, but borrowers may receive uneven disclosures and protections. Read the report
The White House announced its 2022-2023 class of fellows. The group will spend a year working with senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries, and other top-ranking administration officials. Applications for the 2023-2024 fellowship year will be accepted starting November 1. Read about the 15 fellows … Learn how to apply
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was endorsed for the US Senate by a coalition of nine law enforcement leaders. Barnes is challenging Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for his seat and has promised if elected to vote to eliminate the 60-vote threshold preventing Senate Democrats from passing federal protections to abortion care.
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