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Senate to Vote Next Week on Codifying Roe v. Wade into Law, But Obstacles Remain

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 5/5/2022 Lisa Hagen
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats, speak to reporters about a news report by Politico that a draft opinion suggests the Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. He said the Senate will hold a vote on legislation to codify the right to an abortion in law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats, speak to reporters about a news report by Politico that a draft opinion suggests the Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. He said the Senate will hold a vote on legislation to codify the right to an abortion in law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that lawmakers will vote Wednesday on legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that it’s likely to overturn the 1973 ruling. But the vote is expected to fail.

Democrats are forcing another procedural vote on abortion rights legislation to put senators on the record, particularly Republicans – and at least one Democratic senator – who previously blocked a similar vote a few months ago. For 49 years, abortion rights have existed nationwide because Roe v. Wade ruled that it’s a constitutional right, but no federal law on the books establishes it.

With a split 50-50 Senate, the measure is highly unlikely to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. But Democrats argue there’s added significance to the vote because of the looming reality that Roe v. Wade will likely be gone once the Supreme Court releases its formal ruling, which is expected this summer.

“Next week’s vote will be one of the most important we ever take because it deals with one of the most personal and difficult decisions a woman ever has to make in her life. This is not an abstract exercise,” Schumer said. “My fellow Americans, it’s as real and as urgent as it gets.”

“Republicans can run but they can’t hide,” the New York Democrat added. “They have two choices: They own it now or, miracle of miracles, try to begin to undo the damage.”

Wednesday’s vote is expected to have a similar outcome to the one held in February. After the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade and protect abortion providers, Senate Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia blocked it from moving forward.


Video: Sen. Chuck Schumer vows to hold vote to codify Roe v. Wade after Supreme Court leak: 'Abomination' (FOX News)

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Two Senate Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have introduced their own legislation earlier this year to codify Roe v. Wade into law. But it adds in exceptions, including a “conscience” measure that would keep in place laws protecting health care providers who object to performing the procedure on religious or moral grounds. Collins, at least, has indicated she won’t get on board with the bill Schumer plans to bring up next week.

With the threat of another filibuster, Democrats acknowledge they can’t advance such legislation with it in place. That reality has sparked another round of calls to gut the filibuster, or at least do so to specifically strengthen abortion rights.

But Democrats still don’t have the votes to make a rules change and reform the filibuster, and they’d need all 50 to agree. Democrats tried the approach earlier this year when they sought a one-time talking filibuster to help them break the logjam on voting rights legislation, but two of their own – Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – opposed the effort.

As of now, Democrats in leadership aren’t discussing – at least publicly – how to navigate the filibuster and if they want to hold another rules change vote.

Republicans, meanwhile, aren’t engaging in the substance of the draft majority opinion, despite years of the party advocating for the end of Roe v. Wade. They are instead focused on the rare leak and support an investigation into how the draft became public months before the ruling.

When asked if he takes any responsibility or credit for the likely opinion since he helped reshape the federal judiciary and confirm three Trump-era nominees to the high court, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky redirected to the breach of the draft opinion.

“What's unique about today is this is the first time we've had somebody on the inside try to attack the institution,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

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