Democrats block two Senate abortion bills

Greg Nash

Senate Democrats blocked two abortion-related bills on Tuesday as Republicans look to weaponize the issue ahead of the 2020 elections.

Democrats blocked two measures — one from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the other from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) — from getting the 60 votes needed to overcome an initial procedural hurdle. 

The legislation from Graham would ban abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for the life of the mother and victims of rape or incest. Doctors who violate the bill could face up to five years in prison.  

The second bill, from Sasse, would penalize doctors who fail to “exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.”

Graham’s bill failed in a 53-44 vote, with Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voting for it and GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voting against it.

Sasse’s bill failed 56-41, with Casey, Manchin and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) voting for it.

Neither bill was expected to pass despite Republican control of the Senate. But the decision to force the vote allows Republicans to try to put Jones on the record ahead of his tough reelection battle in November, and highlight tensions among Democrats, who are divided on if the party should include anti-abortion members.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted Democrats for opposing the bills, arguing it demonstrates the party moving to the left.

“If my Democratic colleagues block the Senate from even proceeding to debate this legislation later today, the message they send will be chilling and clear: The radical demands of the far left will drown out common sense and the views of most Americans,” he said ahead of the vote.

McConnell’s staff also blasted out a round up of abortion-related comments from Democrats, including Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who are both running for the party’s presidential nomination. 

The votes come days before GOP activists are expected to descend on the D.C. region for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. 

Democrats argue the two bills would curb women’s reproductive rights. They blocked similar legislation from Graham in 2018, and Sasse’s bill last year. 

Schumer called the proposals “divisive anti-choice, anti-women [and] anti-family” measures.

“Republicans have chosen once again to play politics on the Senate floor. Leader McConnell should stop wasting the few votes he does schedule with these shameless political stunts, and instead bring legislation to the floor that would actually improve the health care of the American people, and of American women in particular,” he said.

Tags Abortion abortion rights Ben Sasse Bernie Sanders Bob Casey Chuck Schumer doug jones Elizabeth Warren Joe Manchin Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell reproductive care Susan Collins

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