Last Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked if he would try to pass a national abortion ban if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as it seemed to do, according to the leaked draft opinion that had been published the night before. The Kentucky legislator avoided the issue, insisting that the take-away from the SCOTUS draft was not the annihilation of abortion protection, it predicted, but “the fact that the draft was leaked” – a fixation for many Republican lawmakers during the week. “You need, I think, a lecture to concentrate on what the news is today,” McConnell told reporters, per Politico.
On Thursday, however, McConnell was apparently willing to say the quiet part out loud. asked by USA today whether a national ban “is something worthy of a debate,” the top Republican in the Senate said Republicans could actually entertain the idea, according to the interview, which was published Saturday. “If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislators – not just at the state level but at the federal level – could certainly legislate in that area,” McConnell said. “And if this was the final decision, it was the point that it had to be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yes, it is possible.”
As NBC News pointed out: “It is unlikely that any legislation banning abortion – or anchoring it at the national level – will get 60 votes in the Senate in the near future” – circumstances that make the Democrats’ plan to force a vote to codify abortion rights to federal. law this week anything but doomed. Some Democrats, such as Sen. Bernie Sandershas proposed amending filibuster to adopt legislation that codifies Roe law by majority. But “even if the Democrats could somehow eliminate the filibuster and gather 51 votes to codify Roe,” That New York Times notes, “the move could backfire; a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican president could then ban abortion nationwide by 51 votes – without the need to change Senate rules, which Republicans have maintained are sacred.”
In his USA today interview, McConnell insisted that if Republicans recaptured the Senate in this year’s midterm elections, he would not end the filibuster to pass abortion legislation. “No cut of the filibuster sentence,” he said. “For any subject.” But McConnell could change his mind about the filibuster at any time. He has already spent years helping rebuild the judiciary, as now, according to the Supreme Court judge Samuel Alito‘s draft opinion, seems to detract from the 1973 landmark decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose. And in 2017, Republicans under his leadership scrapped the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees to advance the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump‘s first choice. (The Democrats have also changed the filibuster for presidential appointments, the Washington Post notes.)
Democrats have seized fears of a nationwide abortion ban to encourage voters ahead of the November election. “Mitch McConnell reaffirmed what voters have long known: Republicans will use every tool they can, from the courts to Congress, to make abortion illegal everywhere and deprive a woman of the right to make our own decisions,” the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee said ( DSCC) in a statement Saturday, in response to USA today‘s reporting. “For voters, efforts to protect and expand our Democratic Senate majority in 2022 have never been higher.”
Several Republicans from the Senate, including Sens. Mitt Romney and Cynthia Lummistold NBC News last Thursday that abortion restrictions should be left to states, though others, including Sens. Josh Hawley and Kevin Cramer, were not willing to rule out a push for federal action. Nor Sen. Joni Ernst, member of the GOP management. “We are discussing now. We will continue to discuss that,” she told the newspaper.