WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday plunged into an almost certain to-fail vote to enshrine access to abortion by Roe v. Wade in federal law, a blunt account of the nation’s partisan divide over the landmark court decision and the limits of legislative action.
The appeal promised to be the first of several efforts in Congress to uphold the nearly 50-year-old court ruling that declares a constitutional right to abortion services but is at serious risk of being overturned by a conservative Supreme Court.
President Joe Biden called on the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass legislation protecting abortion services for millions of Americans. But his party’s slim majority seems unable to overcome a filibuster by Republicans, who have been working for decades to install conservative Supreme Court justices and Roe v. to end Wade.
“All of us will be accountable for this vote for the rest of our time in public office,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of Wednesday’s action.
Congress has wrestled over abortion policy for years, but Wednesday’s vote to include a House-passed bill took on new urgency after the Conservative majority released a draft Supreme Court opinion to overturn the Roe decision, which many support as firm kept the law.
The outcome of the court’s actual verdict, expected this summer, is sure to reverberate across the country and in the campaign leading up to the fall midterm elections that will determine which party controls Congress.
One by one, Democratic senators stood in the Senate making speeches claiming that removing access to abortion would do great harm, not just to women but to all Americans planning families and futures.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said most American women have only known a world where access to abortion was guaranteed but could face a future with fewer rights than their mothers or grandmothers.
“It means that women will not have the same control over their lives and bodies as men, and that is wrong,” she said ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Few Republican senators have spoken out in favor of ending abortion access, though nearly all are sure they will join a filibuster to thwart the bill’s progress. It would take 60 votes to advance in the 50-50 split chamber.
Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell, an architect of efforts to install conservative Supreme Court justices — including three during the Trump era — has sought to downplay the outcome of potential changes in federal abortion policy.
“This issue is being addressed at the state level,” McConnell said.
At least 22 states already have laws that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, including some trigger laws that would go into effect once the court rules.
Polls show that most Americans want access to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy, but views are more nuanced and mixed when it comes to later abortions.
A draft court ruling on a Mississippi case indicated that a majority of conservative judges are willing to end federal abortion law and let the states decide.
Whatever the Supreme Court says this summer 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 the protection of the unborn child.
In recent years, abortion debates in Congress have drawn a political tie. Bills would come to the vote – to expand or limit services – only to fail along party lines or be dropped from broader legislative packages.
In the House of Representatives, where Democrats control, lawmakers last year approved the Women’s Health Protection Act on Abortion Rights after the Supreme Court signaled for the first time that it was considering the issue by banning a Texas law went into effect.
But the bill has languished in the Senate, evenly divided by sheer Democratic scrutiny due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to cast a decisive vote.
Unable to gather the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, a February test vote failed when a Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined Republicans in blocking consideration of the bill.
A similar outcome was expected on Wednesday, with renewed calls to change Senate rules to remove the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold, at least in this case.
The two Republican senators who support access to abortion — Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who faces her own re-election in November, and Susan Collins of Maine — have proposed a separate bill that would counter the Supreme Court’s lawsuit.
But both senators, who voted to confirm most of former President Donald Trump’s justices, were expected to stick with the Republican Party and block the Democrats’ bill as too broad.
At the same time, Democrats have largely dismissed the efforts of Collins and Murkowski as insufficient, leaving no hope of a compromise for the time being.
Pressure is building on these two Republican senators to join Democrats in changing the filibuster rules, but that seems unlikely.
Five years ago, it was McConnell who changed Senate rules to abolish the filibuster to uphold Trump’s justice after he blocked Barack Obama’s election of Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy early in the 2016 presidential campaign, and the Seat left open for Trump to fill after winning the White House.
Both parties are under intense pressure to convince voters that they are doing everything they can — Democrats working to keep abortion access, Republicans working to limit or end it — when the fall elections come around .
Congressional campaign committees are raising funds for the abortion cause and working flat out to motivate voters who are already ready to get involved.
Associated Press contributors Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/11/senate-vote-to-support-roe-v-wade-expected-to-fall-short/ The Senate vote in support of Roe v Wade is likely to fall short