Senate bid to save Roe v. Wade falls to GOP-led filibuster

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The Senate fell far short Wednesday in a rushed effort toward enshrining Roe v. Wade abortion access as federal law, blocked by a Republican filibuster in a blunt display of the nation’s partisan divide over the landmark court decision and the limits of legislative action.

The almost party-line tally promises to be just the first of several efforts in Congress to preserve the nearly 50-year-old court ruling, which declares a constitutional right to abortion services but is at serious risk of being overturned this summer by a conservative Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden said that Republicans “have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives.”

Biden urged voters to elect more abortion-rights lawmakers in November and pledged in the meantime to explore other ways to secure the rights established in Roe.

For now, his party’s slim majority proved unable to overcome the filibuster led by Republicans, who have been working for decades to install conservative Supreme Court justices and end Roe v. Wade. The vote was 51-49 against proceeding, with 60 votes needed to move ahead.

Congress has battled for years over abortion policy, but the Wednesday vote to take up a House-passed bill was given new urgency after the disclosure of a draft Supreme Court opinion to overturn the Roe decision that many had believed to be settled law.

The outcome of the conservative-majority court’s actual ruling, expected this summer, is sure to reverberate around the country and on the campaign trail ahead of the fall midterm elections that will determine which party controls Congress.

Security was tight at the Capitol where Vice President Kamala Harris presided, and it has been bolstered across the street at the Supreme Court after protesters turned out in force last week following the leaked draft.

Scores of House Democratic lawmakers marched protest-style to the Senate and briefly watched from the visitor galleries.

Harris can provide a tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 split Senate, but that was beside the point on Wednesday. One conservative Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted with the Republicans, saying he supported keeping Roe v. Wade but believed the current bill was too broad.

“The Senate is not where the majority of Americans are on this issue,” Harris said afterward.

Over several days, Democratic senators delivered speeches contending that undoing abortion access would mean great harm, not only for women but for all Americans planning families and futures.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said that most American women have only known a world where abortion access was guaranteed but could face a future with fewer rights than their mothers or grandmothers.

“That means women will not have the same control over their lives and bodies as men do, and that’s wrong,” she said in the run-up to Wednesday’s vote.

Few Republican senators spoke in favor of ending abortion access, but they embraced the filibuster to block the bill from advancing.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, an architect of the effort to install conservative justices on the Supreme Court—including three during the Trump era—has sought to downplay the outcome of any potential changes in federal abortion policy.

“This issue will be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell said.

Some other Republicans, including Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, argued that the House-passed bill is more extreme than Roe, and would expand abortion access beyond what is already the law.

About half the states already have approved laws that would further restrict or ban abortions, including some trigger laws that would take effect once the court rules.

Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy, but views are more nuanced and mixed when it comes to later-term abortions.

The draft court ruling on a case from Mississippi suggested the majority of conservative justices are prepared to end the federal right to abortion, leaving it to the states to decide.

Whatever the Supreme Court says this summer, it will almost guarantee a new phase of political fighting in Congress over abortion policy, filibuster rules and the most basic rights to health care, privacy and protecting the unborn.

In recent years, abortion debates have come to a political draw in Congress. Bills would come up for votes—to expand or limit services—only to fail along party lines or be stripped out of broader legislative packages.

In the House, where Democrats have the majority, lawmakers approved the abortion-rights Women’s Health Protection Act last year on a largely party line vote after the Supreme Court first signaled it was considering the issue by allowing a Texas law’s ban to take effect.

But the bill has languished in the Senate, evenly split with bare Democratic control because of Harris’ ability to cast a tie-braking vote.

Wednesday’s failure renewed calls to change Senate rules to do away with the high-bar filibuster threshold, at least on this issue.

The two Republican senators who support abortion access—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who faces her own reelection in November, and Susan Collins of Maine—were also no votes, having proposed their own more tailored approach to counter the Supreme Court’s potential action.

Both of the Republican senators, who voted to confirm most of former President Donald Trump’s justices, are in talks over alternatives. But Democrats have largely panned the Collins-Murkowski effort as insufficient

“I plan to continue working with my colleagues on legislation to maintain–not expand or restrict–the current legal framework for abortion rights in this country,” Collins said in a statement.

Pressure is building on those two senators to join most Democrats in changing the filibuster rules, but that appears unlikely.

Five years ago, it was McConnell who changed Senate rules to selectively do away with the filibuster to confirm Trump’s justices after blocking Barack Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy at the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, leaving the seat open for Trump to fill after he won the White House.

Both parties face enormous pressure to convince voters they are doing all they can—the Democrats working to preserve abortion access, the Republicans to limit or end it—with the fall elections coming up.

The congressional campaign committees are fundraising off the abortion issue, and working furiously to energize voters who are already primed to engage.

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15 thoughts on “Senate bid to save Roe v. Wade falls to GOP-led filibuster

  1. The vote failed because the majority of senators voted against it. It had nothing to do with the 60 vote requirement in order to avoid a filibuster. Dems lacked even a majority to make the case that the filibuster rule should be removed to codify abortion rights at the federal level.

  2. The GOP is treating women like 2nd class citizens. McConnell’s only interest is obstructing anything Biden supports. Our 2 traitor Senators follow right along and nothing gets accomplished.

    1. Lol….Dems complaining about obstruction. Lol…Pot meet kettle
      Second, abortion should go back to the states.

      Third, There is a chance that a national abortion bill could pass if it
      is a sensible one. The bill that the Dems presented was NOT sensible
      or acceptable to the vast majority of Americans.
      It was a rediculious bill probably wrote by the radical Dems.

      Fourth, the Left doesn’t understand that science & technology have evolved since
      Roe v Wade

  3. I can’t believe 49 Senators voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act. This bill would have enshrined in federal law, abortion policies that are more extreme than all but a few countries. Why can’t this issue ever get some nuance? Rhetorical question, of course the pro-life and pro-choice people are raising tons of money on the abortion issue.

    Question: If a father wants the mother to have an abortion and the mother decides to have the baby. Should the father be held liable for child support?

    Today “women’s groups” are fighting for women to have more power. I get it, they are essentially a union trying to get more for their members. “Pro-Life” groups are in much the same way fighting for the baby. Why don’t fathers get a say? Clearly, they are impacted by the decision.

    1. Great points.
      The father gets no say.

      There are matters that need to be thoroughly analyzed in this debate.
      It can’t be just one side calling all the shots or being obstructionist.

    2. Pro life groups, oddly enough, lose interest in a fetus once it exits the birth canal.

      They also have made it quite clear that the life of the mother is not as valuable as the fetus. Witness the politicians already talking about no exceptions for an abortion, not even for the life of the mother. Or the efforts to ban contraception. Her job is to give birth or die trying, she has no value to society otherwise.

  4. Joe B, as usual, you are full of baloney. Our church recently donated and repackaged 8,755 single-use diapers to give to a local charity to supply new mothers with those needed basics. Why do you always repeat this hateful, “once it exits the birth canal,” rhetoric every time this topic surfaces? Disgusting and disingenuous. Give it a rest, will you?

    1. Bob, it costs $250,000 to raise a child and you’ve got some diapers to offer. Your earnest ignorance is adorable.

      You know I’m right which is why you try so lamely to shout me down. It’s not my fault the truth hurts, which is why I propose better solutions than your ilk. The simple reality is better sex education and more birth control would lead to less unplanned pregnancies and less abortions. You foolishly think that banning abortion and not fixing the issue of unplanned pregnancies will solve anything. All it will do is lead to the same exact conditions that led to legalized abortion to begin with. Sterilized and dead women. Pro-life, indeed.

      Answer me this, Bob, unless you’re hiding under your desk due to another thrashing: if the issue is just about abortion, why are your ilk already talking about banning birth control in Louisiana?

    2. Joe B.

      It costs much more than $250k to raise a child now…that is old data.

      The abortion topic is a recycled piece of political division by career politicians.

      When Americans wake up and realize there are nuances and put forward an accurate bill/law there will be constant “uniquely timed mostly peaceful protests.”

      Given healthcare today, it is ignorant to fall for the “mom should have the right to late term abortion” because 0.0 mothers are at risk of choosing their life or the baby…it’s a straw man argument from the people who believe “men can have babies.”

      And rape (less than 1% of pregnancies) and incest (less than 0.5% of pregnancies) should be address as unique as such in the law.

      As a Father of 3 children (one born at 30 weeks and in the NICU for 6 weeks) there are two clear facts:

      – a baby should have a right to life
      – both parents should have a say in the process early in the pregnancy

    3. So, medical professional, explain the abhorrent rates of pregnant moms dying in the state of Indiana if it’s so risk-free.

      Also explain why these same pro-lifers are so gung-ho to insist that ectopic pregnancies, which have a 0.0 chance of a live birth, must continue.

      And why IUD’s should also be banned.

      I’d also like to see your stats on how many late term abortions there are with no health complications for either mother or child. True “choice” abortions.

      I’ll wait.

    4. Typical Joe…rather than find common ground it’s a “I’ve read everything on the internet and can cite a biased article to support my position” response.

      Abortion, the right to life, and this medical decision making is nuanced. Rather than everyone first understand that it’s either, “my body my choice no guardrails, or save the baby at week one including the ectopic baby!”

      Both of those extreme view points are the issue.

      Please refer me to all the data of Mother’s who could have died but we terminated the baby from week 30 on? I’ll wait.

    5. You’re fun. Tell the guy who is pushing for reducing abortion rates by reducing the demand for them that he doesn’t get nuance.

      Then whine that I can’t find common ground with someone peddling nonsense that women never die carrying a baby to term, that there’s never sound medical advice for a woman to make the awful decision to abort a pregnancy she likely wanted to have to save her own life.

      I had a low regard for your medical professional opinion before, and I can tell you it’s now 0.0, a number you’re quite familiar with.

      Sure, you’re not an extremist. You’re in the sensible middle. Keep telling yourself that.

    6. If you can’t bother to correctly quote me in order to try to make your point, don’t bother to expect me to give you a reply.

      Frequent? 40 weeks? Even Breitbart does a better job of quoting than that.