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Bipartisan Senate negotiators ready to release same-sex marriage deal

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Senators negotiating a new, bipartisan version of a bill protecting same-sex marriage — and hoping to gain enough GOP support — say they have finished their work, potentially clearing the way for a pivotal test vote next week.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters the group of five senators hashing out changes designed to clarify religious freedom safeguards finished up on Wednesday. She and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) expect the text of the legislation to be released on Thursday.

That would allow Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to set up a vote as early as Monday on a modified version of the measure that passed the House in July. Schumer has allowed Baldwin, Collins and Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) weeks to try and finesse a bill that can get the necessary 60 votes, including 10 Republicans.

Schumer said on Thursday he’s “glad to give them space to lead these negotiations, because this needs to be done and done right.” He’s unlikely to proceed with a vote unless he has buy-in from Baldwin and Sinema, particularly if the two Democrats need more time to lock up 60 votes.

Portman and other Republicans say they don’t yet have 10 Republican votes to break a filibuster on Monday. Baldwin said late Wednesday, however, that she’s feeling “momentum” to get there in time.

“We finalized text last night incorporating many of the constructive suggestions we received, and we continue to talk,” Collins said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”

Baldwin and Sinema appeared to be leaving no stone unturned in their quest for votes, hanging out on Thursday on the GOP side of the aisle after drafting the latest version of the bill.

Baldwin handed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a slip of paper on the Senate floor on Thursday as they chatted amiably, and she also spoke with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for an extended period; both Republicans have indicated they are unlikely to support the bill’s previous version. Sinema spoke with Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) at length.

The same-sex marriage bill was prompted by a concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas when the Supreme Court struck down of Roe v. Wade, in which he raised questions about whether the court might need to revisit its 2015 decision protecting same-sex marriage