Senate GOP, Manchin block abortion rights legislation
Senate Republicans, joined by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), blocked legislation on Wednesday intended to enshrine abortion protections into law ahead of a possible ruling this summer by a conservative-majority Supreme Court striking down the Roe v. Wade decision.
Democrats fell more than 10 votes short of advancing the legislation, touted as a way to codify Roe v. Wade, which guarantees the right to an abortion, into law. It needed 60 votes to move forward.
The outcome, which was expected, is likely to ramp up emotions after a leaked draft decision last week showed the Supreme Court was ready to take the historic step of overturning its landmark 1973 decision on abortion rights.
Democrats have warned that decision would rip away what has been a right for millions of people for nearly half a century, with the negative effects disproportionately falling on the poor.
“Today’s vote is one of the most consequential we will take in decades, because for the first time in 50 years a conservative majority — an extreme majority — on the Supreme Court is on the brink of declaring that women do not have freedom over their own bodies, one of the longest steps back in the court’s entire history; a decision if enacted will go down as one of the worst court decisions ever. The name of this decision will live in infamy,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Underscoring the importance of the vote for Democrats, Vice President Harris was in attendance. Roughly two dozen House Democrats also marched over to the Senate chamber earlier Wednesday, chanting, “My body, my choice.”
Republicans argued the legislation considered by the Senate went further than most Americans would want to go on abortion rights, infringing on religious liberty and state laws.
“Our Democratic colleagues want to vote for abortion on demand through all nine months, until the moment before a baby is born. A failed show vote that will only prove their own extremism,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
Democrats are hoping fury over the possibility of abortion rights being severely eroded will be a clarion call for their supporters in the midterm elections.
Schumer previewed the Democratic argument after the failed vote.
“Elect more MAGA Republicans, if you want to see a nationwide ban on abortion, if you want to see doctors and women arrested, if you want to see no exceptions for rape or incest,” Schumer told reporters after the vote.
“Americans strongly oppose getting rid of Roe, and they will be paying close attention from now until November to Republicans who are responsible for its demise,” he said.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released its first ad responding to the Supreme Court draft on Wednesday, warning that a Republican-controlled Senate would work to ban abortions nationwide and limit access to birth control.
Republicans shrugged off Democratic arguments that voters might make them pay in November, arguing inflation is likely to be a bigger issue.
“I don’t think we see it as a hard vote. I don’t think Collins or Murkowski see it as a hard vote,” Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the No. 4 GOP senator, told The Hill, referring to Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), the caucus’s two Republicans who support abortion rights.
Murkowski and Collins, along with Manchin, three swing votes in the Senate, all voted against the Democratic legislation.
Manchin buttressed the GOP arguments to an extent, saying the bill on the floor went too far.
“We’re going to be voting for a piece of legislation that I will not be voting for today,” Manchin told reporters ahead of the vote. “But I would vote for a Roe v. Wade codification if it was today. I was hopeful for that, but I found out yesterday in caucus that that wasn’t going to be.”
The battle lines in the Senate over abortion rights have been clear for years. But the leaked draft, reported by Politico, reignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill that has largely been the dominant issue talked about by senators in the roughly week since then.
Chief Justice John Roberts has acknowledged the authenticity of the draft, though he said in a statement it did not represent the court’s final word.
It was reported that four other conservative justices on the court are ready to vote with Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the draft opinion, to strike down Roe v. Wade regardless of Roberts. The decision, and which justices vote for it, isn’t final until it is released publicly.
Several polls have shown that a majority of voters support Roe being upheld, giving Democrats an opening on the issue.
Sixty-four percent of respondents to a CBS News-YouGov poll said that they thought the Supreme Court should keep the decision the way it is. Similarly, 66 percent of respondents to a CNN poll found that Roe v. Wade should not be struck down.
Democrats made changes to the legislation from an initial version that failed in the Senate earlier this year with the aim of shoring up support within their own caucus.
Democrats removed a nonbinding findings section that, among other provisions, referred to restrictions on abortion as perpetuating “white supremacy” and called it “a tool of gender oppression.”
The bill would prevent governments from limiting a health care provider’s ability to prescribe certain drugs or prevent health care providers from providing immediate abortion services if a delay would risk a patient’s health, according to the Congressional Research Service.
It also prevents governments from being able to require that a patient make “medically unnecessary in-person visits” before an abortion and would also prevent the government from requiring patients to disclose why they are seeking an abortion.
The bill also broadly would prevent governments from enacting a law that would create similar limits or that “singles out the provision of abortion services, health care providers who provide abortion services, or facilities in which abortion services are provided” and “impedes access to abortion services.”
In a win for Democrats, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced this week that he would support the substance of the legislation.
But Manchin, who also voted against the earlier version of the bill, remained opposed.
Democrats are vowing that the fight isn’t over, but where it goes next is unclear. Some progressive are calling for the Senate to create a carveout to or get rid of the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation, in order to pass abortion protections. But both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) reiterated earlier this month that they support the filibuster.
Democrats who led the months-long rules change discussion say a filibuster change has not been a part of the caucus’s internal discussions on how to respond to the draft Supreme Court ruling.
“Everybody’s position is pretty locked in … I haven’t really heard that as a point of discussion in caucus meetings,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
Kaine is in early discussions with Collins to see if they could come up with compromise legislation to codify Roe, though they both stressed that they aren’t close to filing a bill.
But a compromise, if they can reach one, could struggle to get 60 votes in the Senate given deep division lines on abortion. That would leave the final word to the Supreme Court — and then states across the country. Thirteen states have so-called trigger laws that would kick in to largely ban abortion immediately.
“The unfortunate reality is that 26 other states stand ready to ban abortion rights in the absence of Roe,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). “What are the women of these states to do?”
This story was updated at 5:22 p.m.