President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats quickly condemned Texas Republicans this week for a newly enacted state law that bans abortions after six weeks and even grants money to people who report someone is helping a woman. other person to terminate a pregnancy.
Democrats have made it clear that they do not support the policy or the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the law in effect while challenges are brought to court. Now they have to decide if they really want to do something about it.
There are a few options, none of them are easy. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced Thursday that Democrats will vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would enshrine abortion rights into federal law.
But this bill will not be passed by the Senate, given its 50-50 split and the 60-vote margin needed to get around an obstruction. Democrats could try to get rid of filibuster altogether – which progressives are already pushing to pass voting rights legislation but currently lack the votes to do so.
They could try to expand the Supreme Court to make sure it is less biased in favor of the Conservatives. They could ask the federal government, as Biden once did, to do what it can to step in and protect abortion rights for Texans.
Democrats also have the option to sit down and allow abortion rights to be decimated as they control the White House, House of Representatives and Senate, which many voters would see as betrayal.
“This is going to be a real problem,” especially for new voters who backed Democrats in 2020, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told HuffPost. “They gave us the House, the White House and the Senate, and they want to see us deliver. And if we don’t make real, substantial changes, we’re going to lose them again. “
Biden committed to take action to fight Republicans’ assault on abortion rights, including through legislation, though he has not responded to calls to end filibustering or reform the courts.
In a statement Thursday, he called on the Gender Policy Council and the White House Council Office “to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision.”
This will include investigating what the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services can do to ensure that women in Texas can access abortion, and take a closer look at “what legal tools do we have. available to isolate women and providers from the strangeness impact of Texas’ enforcement system outsourced to private parties, ”the statement said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that Biden would “also continue to call for the codification of Roe,” noting that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of the need for such legislation. during the campaign. “It further underscores the need to move forward in this effort,” Psaki said at a press briefing.
Psaki said she couldn’t comment on Biden’s stance on the Women’s Health Protection Act without looking at the details of the bill.
The House is currently suspended until September 20. The Senate returns on September 13. The Democrats ‘legislative agenda is already loaded, but Pelosi on Thursday promised to add the abortion right measure to fight Texas’ abortion law, SB 8.
“SB8 is the most extreme and dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its goal is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for rape and incest cases.” , she said in a statement. “This ban requires the codification of Roe v. Wade.”
The bill likely has the votes to get through the House, but Democrats ‘control over the Senate is very tight: they only hold 50 votes, plus Harris’ extra tiebreaker. Under the current filibuster rules, most laws require 60 votes, which is why some Democrats are pushing to change these rules to pass protections against abortion.
“We must pass federal laws to protect the right to a safe and legal abortion,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) tweeted on Thusday. “We must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to end these cruel state prohibitions against our rights. And we cannot let the filibuster stand in our way.
Jayapal said Biden should do more to push for filibuster reform.
“This is just another example of why we have to make a very difficult choice to truly restore democracy in the Senate and reform or eliminate filibuster,” Jayapal said. “We have advocated for the elimination of filibuster, but I think the urgency of it has increased. “
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) did not respond to a request for comment on how he plans to proceed.
Other Democrats want to go even further by passing major reform of the courts. This legislation would also likely be blocked by filibuster.
“This Supreme Court ruling on abortion cannot be the last word”, tweeted Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Who has introduced a bill to add four judges to the Supreme Court. “The Democrats in the Senate have the power to fix this problem now by breaking down filibuster and passing my legislation to expand the Supreme Court.”
“Democrats can either abolish filibuster and expand the tribunal, or do nothing as the bodies, rights and lives of millions of people are sacrificed for the benefit of a far-right minority,” said the representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) tweeted early Thursday. “It shouldn’t be a difficult decision.
There are also other legislative options. Representative Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, proposed to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old legislative provision that prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or saving the life of the mother.
“The House voted in this direction by voting to pass our package of spending bills in July,” she told HuffPost in a statement. “The Senate must do the same.
Maloney also called for the lifting of restrictions on medical abortion or the use of drugs to terminate a pregnancy. She and other Democrats recently presented a resolution calling on the Food and Drug Administration to lift its restrictions on an abortion drug, mifepristone.
“Medical abortion is a very safe and common way to access abortion care – in fact, almost half of all abortions in the United States are medical abortions,” she said. “The FDA must act now to provide this safe and easy way for people to have an abortion at home.”
Whether or not Democrats in Congress pass short-term legislation, the party is sure to make abortion a campaign topic for the future. The Democratic Senate campaign committee released a statement saying that “the freedom for women to make their own health care decisions is on the ballot in 2022”.
“This attack on women’s health care is a powerful reminder of what is at stake in next year’s election – and why we must defend a Democratic majority in the Senate with the power to uphold or reject Supreme Court justices,” DSCC spokesman Jazmin Vargas said in a statement.
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