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Democrats unlikely to pass abortion rights law in Senate


U.S. Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) addresses media after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this yr, in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 3, 2022. 

Michael Mccoy | Reuters

WASHINGTON — A leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that may overturn Roe v. Wade has added latest urgency to the continuing Democratic effort to pass a federal law in Congress to guard abortion rights.

“Now that the Court is poised to strike down Roe, it’s my intention for the Senate to carry a vote on laws to codify the precise to an abortion in law,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday, 12 hours after Politico published the bombshell draft opinion.

Other Democrats were more insistent. “Congress must pass laws that codifies Roe v. Wade because the law of the land on this country NOW,” said Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. “And if there aren’t 60 votes within the Senate to do it, and there are usually not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”

As Sanders notes, in an effort to pass such a law, Democrats will first have to get 50 senators to conform to change the Senate’s filibuster rule. Only then can they pass an abortion rights protection law with a straightforward majority.

But even changing the filibuster looks near not possible.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reacts during a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this yr, in Washington, May 3, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Already this yr, two Democratic senators said they opposed changing the filibuster to pass voting rights laws: West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Krysten Sinema.

Within the case of voting rights, President Joe Biden had signaled he would go together with changing the foundations if a bill could pass the Senate. But in other instances, Biden has also said he opposes changing the Senate filibuster rules.

The president often argues that if Democrats change the foundations to pass a bill they consider sacrosanct, like voting rights or abortion rights, then Republicans could have free rein to do the identical the following time they control the Senate.

This might open a Pandora’s box of potential consequences that Biden has warned Democrats about each in public and in private.

It isn’t difficult to assume a Republican-controlled Senate spending some version of a nationwide federal abortion restriction using only a 50-vote threshold — or likewise, passing a nationwide voter ID law that would severely limit access to the polls.

Nonetheless, many progressives reject Biden’s justification for hanging on to the filibuster rule as an excessively cautious and procedural response to what they are saying are monumental threats to basic constitutional rights.

Still, each legal scholars and political analysts note that Biden’s fear of unleashing a conservative free-for-all looks more justified today than it might need just a few years ago.

For much of the Trump era, Democrats were on the ascent. They retook first the House in 2018 after which the Senate in 2020.

But now those roles are reversed. Republicans are currently favored to win control of each the House and the Senate in November’s midterms. if current trends hold, a Republican would have a superb likelihood to win the presidency in 2024.

Even when a filibuster reform bill could pass the Senate, the present laws in Congress to guard abortion rights, the House-passed Women’s Health Protection Act, still faces an infinite hurdle: Manchin, again.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) exits the U.S. Capitol following a vote, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 9, 2022.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

A self-described pro-life Democrat, Manchin was the one member of his party within the Senate to vote against advancing the Women’s Health Protection Act earlier this yr.

On Tuesday, Manchin refused to reply questions on whether he would now support either changing the filibuster or codifying abortion rights into law.

And without Manchin on board to pass the ultimate abortion protection laws, going to great lengths to suspend the filibuster begins to look pointless.

This might help explain why Biden stopped well wanting calling for filibuster reform following the discharge of Monday’s draft opinion.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, Biden said, “it would fall on our nation’s elected officials in any respect levels of presidency to guard a lady’s right to decide on.”

“And it would fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November.”

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