Congress Debates Proposal to Remove Approval Deadline for ERA
WASHINGTON – The House split along party lines Monday during a hearing that could help add the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution within weeks.
Both the House and Senate are considering resolutions that would remove the deadline for states to ratify the amendment that guarantees women’s rights.
The Equal Rights Amendment won quick approval after it was introduced in Congress in 1972. The amendment says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The only remaining requirement was ratification by 38, or three-fourths, of the states.
Virginia became the 38th state to ratify it last month. However, the deadline set by Congress for ratification expired 37 years earlier.
Democrats who spoke during a House Rules Committee hearing Monday said the deadline should not be a barrier if the required number of states ratified the amendment.
Republicans disagreed, saying Congress has no constitutional authority to override the deadline. Some of them also warned the Equal Rights Amendment could extend abortion rights beyond the will of many states.
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said, “There has undoubtedly been progress made on women’s rights over the years.”
However, without the kind of assurances offered by the Equal Rights Amendment, “Those rights could be chipped away,” he said.
Like other Democrats, McGovern supports eliminating the deadline that is holding up the amendment.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, accused Democrats of violating the laws they are supposed to uphold.
“This is a highly unusual and unconstitutional action for the House to take,” Cole said about the resolution.
Deadlines have been set commonly by Congress when previous amendments were proposed.
“They’re attempting to perform an end-run around the Constitution,” Cole said about the Democrats.
He added, “There are 20 members of Congress who weren’t even born when the deadline passed.”
Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, largely agreed with Cole, saying, “Congress does not have the power to do that. That’s the bottom line problem here.”
He called the Equal Rights Amendment “a failed constitutional amendment.” The only way it could legally be revived is if it is reintroduced in Congress, he said.
“You have to start the process again,” Collins said.
He also warned that the way it is worded would broadly expand abortion rights, which could include overriding conflicting state laws.
“We must protect the most defenseless humans among us,” he said about abortion.
The resolution to remove the ratification deadline was introduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, days after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Virginia’s historic vote to be the crucial 38th state needed to ratify the ERA proves there is no expiration date on equality, and this issue is just as salient as ever,” Speier said in a statement. “For survivors of sexual violence, pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay, and more, the fight for equal justice under the law can’t wait any longer.”
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