Senate

Democrats seize on prospect of national abortion ban

Democrats are setting off alarm bells over what a GOP-controlled Washington might do in a post-Roe v. Wade world.  

Democrats will keep the issue in the spotlight this week, forcing a Senate vote on codifying abortion rights that is guaranteed to fail, part of an effort to get Republicans on the record in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would strike down Roe.  

The strategy is tied to November but also reflects fears that a GOP trifecta could try to enact a federal ban or new restrictions on abortion. Those concerns were ramped up after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in remarks over the weekend that it is “possible” a GOP-controlled Congress could try to legislate on abortion.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that if Roe is struck down, it would be “open season” on reproductive health care, calling McConnell’s comments “dreadful.”

“In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, upcoming decision, Leader McConnell acknowledged that a national ban on abortion is now possible without Roe, if Republicans reclaim the majority — hear that, America?” Schumer asked from the Senate floor.  

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said she has “no doubt” that Republicans would try to impose a national ban if they control both the White House and Congress in 2025.  

“Why should the advocates who have been working for decades to put the conservative, right-wing justices on the court — why should they stop at that? Why wouldn’t they want to have a national ban on abortion and push for it?” Hirono said.  

McConnell, in an interview published on Saturday, told USA Today that it is “possible” that a GOP-controlled Congress could take up national abortion restrictions.  

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area,” he said when asked if a national abortion ban is “worthy of debate.”

Republicans have largely been reluctant to discuss what will happen if Roe is struck down. Sens. John Thune (S.D.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 2 and the No. 3 Republicans in the chamber, respectively, both sidestepped questions about a national ban, noting there isn’t an official decision yet from the Supreme Court.  

McConnell reiterated on Monday that he wouldn’t gut the legislative filibuster in order to enact anti-abortion legislation, though Republicans would likely face intense pressure from their base to pass new federal restrictions if Roe is struck down.  

McConnell previously faced pressure during the Trump administration to blow up the filibuster. The Kentucky senator, if Republicans win back the chamber this year, would be majority leader for at least two years starting in 2023, but President Biden would be able to veto any abortion bill that reaches his desk through early 2025 or later, should he win a second term.

“I’ve clearly stated I will never, never, support smashing the legislative filibuster on this issue or any other,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

Democrats, however, aren’t convinced.  

“He really left the door open that federal and state governments would end up banning abortion altogether,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat.

Asked if he believed McConnell, Durbin added with a laugh: “I’m skeptical.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that McConnell had “opened the door” on a national abortion ban — and voters should listen to him.  

“Every person in America should listen to him. When people tell you what plans they have to take away your liberty and autonomy over your own body, listen carefully,” Warren said.  

Democrats were already responding to the potential Supreme Court ruling before McConnell’s comments. Schumer will force a vote on Wednesday on a bill to codify Roe, but it will fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance.  

But the Senate Democratic campaign arm and vulnerable incumbents immediately seized on the remarks.

Democrats are facing tough prospects heading into November in what is historically a tough midterm for the party in power. Democrats can’t afford even a net loss of one seat in order to hold on to their 50-50 Senate majority. 

Republicans are feeling increasingly optimistic about their chances amid voter dissatisfaction and concerns about issues such as inflation.  

But multiple polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe Roe should be upheld, giving Democrats a foothold on the issue for the midterms.

Sixty-four percent of Americans support keeping Roe as-is, according to a CBS News-YouGov poll released on Monday.

“Mitch McConnell confirmed what voters have long known: Republicans will use every tool they can, from the courts to Congress, to make abortion illegal everywhere and strip away a women’s right to make our own decisions. For voters, the stakes of protecting and expanding our Democratic Senate Majority in 2022 have never been higher,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Nora Keefe said in a statement. 

Tags Abortion abortion rights Biden Charles Schumer Mazie Hirono Mitch McConnell Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Supreme Court leak
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