Religious freedom bill picks up momentum in the House

Pressure is mounting on House GOP leaders to call a vote this month on a religious-freedom bill banning the federal government from punishing churches, charities or private schools for actions in opposition to same-sex marriage.

The legislation, dubbed the First Amendment Defense Act, is gaining steam. Nearly 50 Republicans — including Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), Policy Chairman Luke Messer (Ind.) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores (Texas) — signed on just last week, pushing the total number of GOP co-sponsors to 115.

Given the Supreme Court ruling last month legalizing same-sex marriage, many Republicans say they hope to pass the bill before they head home and face constituents at August town halls.

But there’s one possible hang-up: The bill’s author is Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, which has caused fits for GOP leadership since its launch in January. Labrador, a Tea Party favorite, also is a one-time rival to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who just happens to control the floor schedule.