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Senate Punts Marriage Equality Vote Until After Midterms Due to GOP

Senator Tammy Baldwin
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats had originally been eyeing a Senate vote before this fall's midterms.

(CNN) -- The Senate will punt on a vote over same-sex marriage legislation until after the November midterm elections as negotiators ask for more time to lock down support -- a move that could make it more likely the bill will ultimately pass the chamber.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a leading Democratic negotiator on the bill that would codify same-sex marriage nationwide, said Thursday that more time is needed to negotiate the issue with Republicans -- and wants to delay any vote in the Senate until after the November midterm elections.

"We're very confident that the bill will pass, but we will need a little more time," Baldwin told CNN.

Democrats had originally been eyeing a Senate vote before this fall's midterms -- potentially even as soon as next week. Now, Baldwin says she wants the bill to come up "the day after the election."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to hold a vote on the bill, but timing has been uncertain as it has been unclear if there will be the needed 10 GOP votes to overcome a filibuster and advance the legislation toward final passage.

Democrats have pushed for the vote after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, sparking fears that the court could take aim at same-sex marriage in the future.

A Senate vote on same-sex marriage ahead of the midterms could have put vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in a difficult spot. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said that the fast-approaching midterms added a complicating factor to efforts to lock in the votes necessary to pass a bill. Pushing back the timeline until after the midterms may make it more likely for a key test vote to succeed.

The bipartisan group has been working to negotiate as a handful of Republicans with religious liberty concerns have signaled they might vote for the bill if it's amended.

GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who has been closely involved in the effort, confirmed that the group was seeking to delay the vote, saying GOP senators are asking for "more time to digest it."

"The possibility of a strong bipartisan vote after the elections seems more likely," Portman said.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said, "People who have been negotiating this want an outcome," and the chances improve after the elections. He said the group made the recommendation to Schumer to hold off.

Tillis told reporters that there had been concerns that voting on the same-sex marriage bill ahead of the election was a political move.

"Some said the timing of the vote was political. This is clearly, I think, a situation where we want to make our members feel comfortable with it, and I'm confident we'll ultimately pass it," Tillis said.

On the bill itself, Tillis said, "We have just put together language that is finalized, that has tremendous I think respect for the input that we received on religious freedom."

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who is in a tight reelection race in Baldwin's home state of Wisconsin, had expressed an openness to support the bill until conservative groups raised concerns about religious liberties.

"People have raised some very serious and legitimate concerns about religious liberty," he said. "I appreciate the authors of the bill are attempting to address it. But this takes some time to consider, OK? They shouldn't rush it, it's not ready."

He would not commit to how he would vote if the religious liberty concerns were resolved.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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Related: Two-Thirds of Swing State Voters Support Marriage Equality

Related: Schumer Says Senate to Vote on Marriage Equality 'In the Coming Weeks'

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