Senate Democrats fail to pass legislation to protect abortion rights as Roe hangs in the balance

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Senate Democrats’ attempt to pass legislation codifying the protections in Roe v Wade ended unceremoniosuly despite the fact that many of them fear that abortion rights are at risk.

Many Senators from both parties filed in and out of the chamber, not staying in their desks during the actual vote, as if to understate the lack of gravity of such a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invoked cloture in an attempt to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act in an attempt to break a filibuster. But the legislation failed to even pass a 50-vote threshold despite Vice President Kamala Harris showing up, after Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced he would vote against it.

Senator Patty Murray, who leads the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee, gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor defending a woman’s right to an abortion.

“They are coming after your birth control, they are coming after Plan B and IUDs, and right here in the Senate, they are talking about a federal abortion ban,” she said. “And right here in the Senate, they are talking about a federal abortion. “

Many Democratic female members of the House of Representatives were on hand during the speech, including Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Veronica Escobar, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark and Judy Chu, the chief sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

“I think it’s important to have people on the record,” Ms Omar told The Independent before the vote. “And Republicans clearly do not want to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

Ms Pressley said it was important to have the vote for the public to see.

“I’m glad to they’ll be on record today so the electorate can put them on notce,” she said. “I’m not ceding anything yet. We’re going to keep pushing until the very end there.”

Ms Omar said that she thought Republicans would pay a price for the opposition to the legislation.

“We know this is an issue that is very deeply important to the American people,” she said. “There are going to be severe consequences for people that are impeding the freedoms that women have enjoyed for decades.”

But the House members left before the actual vote took place.

The vote came after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed that the court was prepared to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that said seeking an abortion is a constitutional right.

Mr Schumer and many other Democrats said the vote was about putting Senators on record.

“We want to see where see where everybody is,” Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, who also serves as chairman of the Democratical Senatorial Campaign Committee, said before the vote. When asked if this would affect any of the Senate races, he said, “We’ll see. See what happens.”

But Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana was skeptical that it would affect the way people vote in the 2022 midterm elections.

“There’s no abortion related bill here from either side that’s gonna get more than a split vote,” he told The Independent. “The gasoline price alone is enough to upend you in a midterm election.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it was posturing.

“I think it’s a base-driven deal,” she said.

No Republican Senators joined Democrats in the vote. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin at one point walked in with Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who had alternative legislation to codify Roe but objected to Democrats’ legislation. When a reporter asked if Mr Durbin got her vote, neither said a word.

Similarly, Senator Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska, said she would vote against it, saying she thought abortion was a “legal right” but also respected the need for reasonable limitations.

“So will be opposing the Democrats’ bill that goes far beyond straight codification of Roe and I will continue to try to work to ensure that we are protecting a woman’s right to choose,” she told reporters.

Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia who is up for reelection this year and faces a tough race, said that the blame fell squarely on Republican shoulders.

“Let’s be clear that it’s Republicans who are standing in the way of a woman’s constitutional right to choose and we’ll continue to soldier forward, doing everything we can to protect that right,” he told The Independent. Mr Warnock also waved off a question about whether he would discuss this on the campaign trail.

“I’m thinking about the work that I was hired to do,” he said.