Democrats’ Effort to Secure Abortion Rights Falls to Filibuster
WASHINGTON — The fact that defeat was in the bag didn’t reduce the sting for Senate Democrats who failed to pass legislation Wednesday that would have enshrined abortion rights into federal law and circumvented the Supreme Court’s anticipated overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In the end, the vote was 49-51, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joining all of the Republicans in the chamber to shoot the measure down.
The rushed effort by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to have the measure voted on came just over a week after an as-yet unidentified party leaked a draft decision of a pending abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that revealed conservatives on the court had voted as a bloc to overturn Roe in a matter of weeks.
The landmark 1973 high court decision in Roe guaranteed a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government interference. A second case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, would also be overturned by the draft ruling, which was written by Justice Samuel Alito Jr.
Casey largely affirmed the earlier ruling in Roe.
The bill Senate Democrats wanted to advance on Wednesday would have banned states from placing any restrictions on abortion and preempted a number of recently passed abortion laws in Republican-led states that fall just short of being a total ban.
Schumer and his fellow Democrats knew the vote was doomed to fail before it started, having failed to secure the 11 votes they would need to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Manchin told CNN earlier today that he believed the bill his fellow Democrats were trying to pass simply went too far for him to accept.
A number of Republicans echoed the same sentiment, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, who typically fall on the side of opposing abortion restrictions.
Among the more predictable no votes on the measure was Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said in a written statement that the “radical Democratic bill” would have legalized abortion “up to the moment of birth.”
“This was a radical bill that goes far beyond Roe v. Wade,” he said, adding with a tip of the hat to Manchin, “I’m glad it was rejected in a bipartisan manner by the United States Senate.”
But Schumer wasn’t necessarily looking for their votes when he arrived at the Capitol this morning. He had his eyes on a potentially bigger political prize — having an issue to lambast Republicans in the run-up to the 2022 election.
“Republicans will have two choices: They can own the destruction of women’s rights, or they can reverse course and work to prevent the damage,” Schumer said last week.
Today as he walked resolutely onto the Senate floor, the majority leader said Republicans had already started the fight by declaring “open season on our God-given freedoms,” starting with those guaranteed in Roe.”
“Today it will be Roe. Tomorrow it will be a national ban on abortion. And beyond that, something even more dreadful. We cannot allow this shameful backslide to happen,” he said.
Immediately after the vote, President Joe Biden released a statement from the White House in which he said, “fundamental rights are at risk at the Supreme Court” and blamed Senate Republicans for failing to take steps to protect them.
“Republicans in Congress — not one of whom voted for this bill — have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives,” the president said.
“To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House. If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law,” he said.