COMPASS: Will 12 GOP senators continue to help pass the Respect for Marriage Act?

November 28th, 2022

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate return to session this week. Last week, I wrote about the battle over religious liberty brewing in the Senate on the Respect for Marriage Act, which claims to “codify same sex marriage” (it doesn’t – nothing in the bill changes the status of, or benefits afforded to, same sex marriage post Obergefell.)

What it does do is create an apparatus by which a torrent of litigation will be aimed at individuals and institutions of faith. Lutheran Rev. Jonathan Lange explained it this way:

First, the act will tether federal law to the caprice of the most unhinged states in the union. Whatever a state says marriage is, the federal government would be obliged to act as though it were a sane definition. Temporary marriages? Yup. Incestuous marriages? Yup. Polygamy? Yup.

Second, H.R. 8404 “effectively deputizes activist groups to sue religious individuals, organizations, and businesses,” according to the letter. If your speech does not sufficiently parrot the newest definition of marriage, expect to be bankrupted by legal fees. Private citizens and faith-based service providers both can be taken to federal court by any lawfare machine in the country. All an activist needs in order to claim personal injury is denial of “full faith and credit” to the latest faddish definition of marriage.

Third, the act gives enforcement power to the criminally partisan and politicized Department of Justice to launch investigations that intimidate parents and to file charges that hobble organizations standing up for marriage. Lois Lerner’s legacy ensures that the Internal Revenue Service will use these as a pretext to threaten the tax-exempt status of any 501(c)(3) that fails to memory-hole the historic definition of marriage.

Earlier this month, 12 Republican senators joined Democrats on a procedural vote to move the bill forward. The bill has not yet passed, and 21 GOP senators have issued a public letter to their colleagues asking them to withhold further support for the bill unless it includes an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee. The letter has been met with a mixed response.

Leaders of the conservative movement, including Kevin Roberts of the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse, Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and our own Ed Corrigan have come out against the Respect for Marriage Act here.

If those 12 senators remain unmoved by the reality that this bill does nothing to protect the religious liberty of those who hold traditional views of marriage – and, in fact, encourages the harassment of tax exempt institutions and individuals – the bill will likely pass the Senate, and head to the House where the Democratic majority has made clear they intend to pass it before January. The Senate will take its next procedural vote on the bill this evening.

In other news, in what’s basically become a tradition in the lame-duck session, a handful of members are trying to make an immigration amnesty deal happen. From the Wall Street Journal:

A bill providing a path to citizenship for about one million farmworkers—and creating a capped number of new year-round visas—passed the House in March 2021, with the support of 217 Democrats and 30 Republicans…

Supporters are now looking to the Senate, where Sens. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) are trying to reach an agreement they hope could secure the 60 votes needed to clear the chamber…

The House bill would establish 20,000 three-year H-2A visas for year-round work, with that number expected to be higher in a Senate agreement, according to people familiar with the discussions.

At the heart of the bill is a trade-off. The legislation would provide a path to citizenship for the roughly one million farmworkers living in the U.S. illegally, long sought by Democrats. To satisfy GOP demands, the bill would also require employers in the agricultural sector to use an electronic system verifying the legal status of their workers.

Ever since the GOP dramatically underperformed expectations in this month’s midterm elections, there has been a lot of recriminations, blaming, and finger-pointing related to candidate selection, use of resources, and lack of get-out-the-vote infrastructure.

Yet Republicans have returned to Washington from that underperformance and immediately voted to sell out religious conservatives and play footsie with an amnesty deal during the worst border crisis in American history. Based on that alone, I would humbly suggest that years of this kind of voting behavior from elected Republicans has played a larger role in depressing turnout than anyone in DC seems willing to admit.

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One More Thing…

I wrote an essay for the New York Times explaining why I think Donald Trump still has a path to the GOP nomination. You can read it here.