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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on December 14, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As Schumer Tees Up Vote to Codify Roe, Progressives Urge Elimination of Filibuster

"If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right-wing judges nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, "Democrats can and must end the filibuster to keep abortion legal and safe."

Kenny Stancil

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer makes preparations for a vote this week on legislation that would codify the abortion rights that the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority appears poised to overturn, progressives on Monday reiterated that the filibuster must be eliminated for the bill to pass.

"The Senate can end the filibuster and pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. It isn't too late to save the right to an abortion."

Justice Samuel Alito's leaked draft majority opinion reveals that the high court has voted 5-4 to strike down Roe v. Wade and its companion, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Unless this ruling is significantly revised before it is officially issued, abortion could be prohibited in up to 26 states as soon as next month, and Republicans have vowed to enact a federal six-week ban if they retake Congress and the White House.

The Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) would enshrine patients' right to receive legal and safe abortions and healthcare professionals' right to provide them. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to file cloture on Monday for a Wednesday vote in the Senate on a modified version of the WHPA.

"Every American will see how every senator stands," Schumer said Sunday during a press conference with state leaders in New York. The GOP "can't duck it anymore," he added. "Republicans have tried to duck it."

"Choice should not be up to a handful of right-wing justices," said Schumer. "Choice should not be up to a handful of right-wing politicians. It's a woman's right. Plain and simple."

House Democrats—with the lone exception of right-wing Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas)—supported the passage of the WHPA last September. However, the bill died in the upper chamber in February when right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) joined all 50 Senate Republicans to block the measure before it even reached the floor.

Because the filibuster requires 60 votes to advance most legislation, the latest iteration of the WHPA is destined for the same fate unless the entire Senate Democratic Caucus—including Manchin and fellow conservative Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona)—and Vice President Kamala Harris vote to suspend the anti-democratic rule that gives veto power to the minority party in a closely divided upper chamber.

"The Senate can end the filibuster and pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted Monday. "It isn't too late to save the right to an abortion."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) added that "if Republicans can end the filibuster to install right-wing judges nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster to keep abortion legal and safe."

Former President Donald Trump—who received nearly three million fewer votes than 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—appointed three far-right justices to lifetime positions on the Supreme Court during his one term: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The trio joined Justice Clarence Thomas in supporting the draft ruling overturning Roe, which was authored by Alito, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

In 2017, Senate Republicans bypassed Democrats' opposition to Gorsuch by lowering the threshold for advancing high court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority. That rule change also benefited Kavanaugh and Barrett.

Trump was able to nominate Gorsuch because in 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to seat Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia following his passing on February 13 of that year.

Trump nominated Barrett following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020. Even though McConnell claimed that seating Garland would be inappropriate when Obama was "on his way out the door," he rushed through Barrett's confirmation after millions of mail-in ballots had already been cast in the election that President Joe Biden eventually won.

More than three-fifths of people in the U.S. think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a recent survey conducted before Alito's draft ruling was leaked. And a new Data for Progress poll taken after the high court's draft majority opinion was made public shows that a large majority of likely voters are in favor of the WHPA.

"If you're outraged," the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote on social media over the weekend, "you're not alone."

"Yes, I'm angry," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote in an op-ed published on Monday. "I'm angry at the justices who deliberately deceived the American people. I'm angry at the Republicans in Congress who stole two Supreme Court seats to get us to this day. And I'm angry at the cruelty of the anti-abortion politicians who will impose enormous pain, suffering, and possible death on people who have the fewest resources to fight back."

"To... protect Roe, we must end the filibuster."

"Republicans in Congress are planning to restrict abortion access and reproductive health care everywhere, endangering all Americans, whether they live in red, blue, or purple states," Warren continued. "And it is equally clear that the Supreme Court is opening the door to banning birth control, outlawing marriage equality, and even making interracial marriage illegal."

The Massachusetts Democrat argued that "American freedoms and the Constitution itself are under attack. The Republicans have planned long and hard for this day, and we can't wait a second longer to fight back. We need action."

"The Supreme Court does not get the last word," wrote Warren. "The American people—through their leaders in Congress—can and must take action."

"Congress has the power to make Roe the law of the entire nation," she added. "The House has already passed legislation to shield abortion rights, and the Senate will take up the bill this week. We should debate that bill on the floor and then vote on it—because every American should know exactly where we stand and hold us accountable. But to get that vote and protect Roe, we must end the filibuster."

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