The Senate failed in a 49-51 vote to codify abortion rights Wednesday afternoon in a bill that even some moderate abortion rights supporters said went too far.
The bill was expected to fail but gave Democrats a chance to put on a public display of support for abortion rights -even Vice President Kamala Harris showed up to the Capitol to preside over the vote.
A group of fired-up female members of the House Progressive Caucus marched toward the Senate side chanting ‘my body, my decision’ as the upper chamber voted on the House-passed bill.
The bill would have needed 60 votes, 10 from Republicans, to pass, but failed to garner even a simple majority as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted against it, as did pro-choice Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, and Susan Collins, Maine.
‘We’re going to be voting on a piece of legislation, which I will not vote for today.,’ Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
‘But I would vote for a Roe v. Wade codification if it was today – I was hopeful for that,’ the West Virginia Democrat assured. ‘But I found out yesterday in caucus that wasn’t going to be and you probably heard of that by now.’
In a show-vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attempted to file cloture to stop Republicans filibustering the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Schumer knew he didn’t have the votes needed to make the landmark abortion case federal law but says wanted to put anti-abortion lawmakers on the record and give Democrats a pro-choice vote to take home ahead of the midterm elections.
Even Vice President Kamala Harris, who would break a tie in the split Senate if the bill wasn’t subject to a filibuster, showed up to the Capitol to preside over the vote
Members of the US House of Representatives chant ‘my body, my decision’ while walking to the Senate side of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 11
Members of the US House of Representatives, including (L-R) US Representaitve Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), US Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and US Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chant ‘my body, my decision’ while walking to the Senate side of the US Capitol
Capitol Police clear the halls in the Capitol as members of the House Progressive Caucus went to the Senate chamber and shouted in protest
Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday (pictured) that he would not vote to file cloture on ending a filibuster for a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade
Schumer ahead of the vote claimed that his GOP colleagues were ‘hellbent on sending women’s rights back to the stoneage’ and said the public ‘will not forget’ at election time.
The attempt comes after Democrats tried to get the same bill through in February, but the measure has more urgency now that a Supreme Court leak shows a draft opinion that would overturn 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion constitutionally protected.
President Biden condemned the bill’s failure in a statement after the vote, but dangled a potential future passing of the bill in front of voters ahead of midterm elections.
‘Senate Republicans have blocked passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that affirmatively protects access to reproductive health care. This failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack – and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people,’ Biden 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.’
The House already passed its version of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into law, but the Senate was unable to do so with the trio of moderates against making abortion rights federal law.
Murkowski said in a statement ahead of the vote that the Women’s Health Protection Act was billed as a way to ‘codify Roe v. Wade’ but ‘in reality goes much further—nullifying state and religious freedom laws across the country in the process.’
Murkowski noted that the bill does not include the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal dollars from funding abortion, does not include conscience protections for healthcare providers who do not wish to perform abortions due to their religious beliefs and ‘allows late-term abortions without any notable restrictions.’
Senator Chuck Schumer (pictured Tuesday at the Capitol) will try to overcome a GOP filibuster Wednesday and bring a floor vote on codifying abortion rights into federal law – but the effort is almost assuredly dead on arrival as Democrats don’t have the votes to get the legislation through
The new urgency in the push comes after a Supreme Court leak shows a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Pictured: Police watch anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court Building on Tuesday, May 10
Meanwhile, Manchin and Democratic Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema have stopped their party from getting rid of the filibuster in order for the slim majority to be able to jam through whatever legislation they desire without the need for 60 votes to bring it to the floor.
Since Manchin opposes the legislation, Democrats aren’t even able to use the ‘nuclear option’ to only need a simple majority of votes, which is the only conceivable option to get this abortion legislation passed.
Many more progressive senators, like independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, are reupping calls to end the filibuster in order to protect Roe. But the topic was not discussed during Democrats weekly lunch on Tuesday.
While typically a Senate leader won’t bring a vote unless they feel there are the votes to pass it, Schumer says it’s important for every senator to go on the record on abortion rights. He claims the proposal is ‘very simple’.
His team also feels it’s important to show that Democrats are fighting for a woman’s ability to terminate their pregnancy.
‘[W]e are making sure that … every senator will have to vote and every, every American will see how they voted,’ Schumer said. ‘And I believe the Republican Party, the MAGA Republican Party, will suffer the consequences electorally when the American people see that.’
Republicans are overwhelmingly against abortion and believe the decision making on the matter should go back to the states so laws can reflect constituents and the values of different jurisdictions.
But each side has taken to clinging on to the views of the other’s most radical members.
‘We must oppose the vision that MAGA Republicans clamor for: forced pregnancies, punishment for women and doctors, and zero exceptions for rape or incest,’ Schumer said ahead of the vote. It is a generally accepted view among Republicans that laws should not go after the pregnant woman herself, and many support exceptions for rape and incest. There are, of course, acceptions.
Republicans, meanwhile, have taken to claiming Democrats support ‘abortion until birth.’ But Roe v. Wade already allowed for restrictions on abortion after viability, at about 22-24 weeks.
‘Under Schumer’s radical Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act, these twins I delivered could have been aborted,’ Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Ky., wrote on Twitter, along with a photo of himself with newborn twins he’d just delivered.
‘Chuck Schumer right now is bringing a bill on the Senate floor today to make America in the category of China, North Korea and Guinea. We would be in the territory of countries that allow abortion on demand as widespread as we’ve seen it anywhere in the world,’ Houes Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said during a press conference ahead of the Senate vote.
Large, un-scalable fencing was erected around the Supreme Court following the leak last week as demonstrations between pro- and anti-abortion activists became increasingly violent and threatening towards Supreme Court Justices
Pro-choice activists protests with Democratic Representative Cori Bush outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday
On the other hand, Democrats are trying to play a potential Roe v. Wade overturn as a hit to privacy, specifically between women and their healthcare providers. Many, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have presented slippery slope arguments claiming gay marriage and birth control will be the next to go.
The Women’s Health Protection Act is headed by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He told Punchbowl on tuesday that the legislation is critical because it would prevent states from legal challenges to the 50-year status quo on abortion rights.
‘Part of what Roe precludes are restrictions like admitting privileges, ultrasounds, mandatory waiting periods, which have been litigated to violate [rights], but which states continue to pass,’ the senator said.
Nevada Senator Jackie Rosen said Democrats need to ‘take that fear’ and ‘channel it into action to defend our majority.’
‘We’re not living in a hypothetical,’ she added.
In recent years, red states have started implementing restrictions on abortion – whether it be the timelines allowed for a pregnancy termination or preventing anyone from aiding a woman in seeking an abortion.
These laws are almost always challenged and make their way up through the court system.
The most recent, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is a Mississippi case that would ban abortion after 15 weeks into a pregnancy. This is the case that made its way to the Supreme Court and led to the draft opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito that would entirely overturn Roe v. Wade.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is the only conservative of six to dissent with liberals, according to the leak earlier this month from Politico.
Roberts is, however, in favor of the 15-week ban.
With a 6-3 majority bench, conservatives can afford to lose on justice to liberal and still prevail.