A coalition of House conservatives are hoping the last minute reshuffling of the schedule this week will make room for a religious freedom bill that responds to the recent Supreme Court ruling in support of gay marriage.
But so far, the top House GOP leaders aren't ready to bring it to the floor.
The House conservative faction, including the Tea-Party influenced House Freedom Caucus, have coordinated to write the First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect tax-exempt religious groups that do not support same-sex marriage.
More than 115 lawmakers have signed onto the bill, including the majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. The Republican Study Committee, the mainstream conservative faction in the House, is planning a press conference this week to push for a floor vote on the House bill as well as matching Senate companion legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
The normally tight pre-August recess schedule got roomier on Friday when Republican leaders decided to pull all appropriations legislation from the floor so that Democrats wouldn't have an opportunity to introduce bill riders banning the Confederate flag on federal land.
House GOP leaders, however, are fighting battles on all sides this week. Almost as soon as leaders voided the schedule of spending bills to blunt the Democratic attack, they found themselves under pressure from the right to take up the religious freedom bill. Backers of that bill say the change should make room for their measure.
"We have an open schedule in the House after appropriations stalled, so there are plenty of opportunities for a vote," House Freedom Caucus spokesman Matt Buckham told the Washington Examiner. "The HFC will be pushing hard for a vote before the August recess."
But that will require the approval of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who has not yet signed on. He's told members the legislation will first require more support.
"We have encouraged members to build a broad coalition before we discuss a possible vote," a GOP aide told the Examiner.
The legislation follows last month's Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
"It doesn't try to redefine marriage or take away anything from the decision," Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, a sponsor of the legislation, said. "But, Justice Kennedy and others have talked about how important religious freedom is for the foundation of America and we want to take him at his word and talk about how important religious freedom is in the United States and the right of consciousness to a religious belief."
The legislation appears to be aimed at protecting tax-exempt organizations, such as religious schools, that do not support gay marriage.
The bill would "prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman."
The Supreme Court's historic ruling is now causing some Democrats to question whether tax-exempt groups outside of churches should have their status revoked. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito asked during oral arguments on gay marriage in April whether legalizing gay marriage would apply to religious schools and colleges.
Solicitor general Donald B. Verrilli told Alito he was unsure.
"But it's certainly going to be an issue," Verrilli said. "I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is going to be an issue."