Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is vowing that Republicans will have to answer to voters if they oppose enshrining Roe v. Wade protections into law. Senate Republicans appear willing to take that bet.
The GOP is shrugging off a showdown over codifying the right to an abortion, taking the gamble that they won’t pay a political price in November. Schumer is poised to force a vote Wednesday on a bill supported only by Democrats in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion penned by conservative Justice Samuel Alito that supports striking down Roe v. Wade.
But Republicans say they see little political danger in voting against the bill and believe that voters will care more about inflation, an issue top GOP senators have been leaning into this week on the sidelines of the abortion fight.
“I think it’s hard for them in the long term. It’s pretty extreme,” Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the No. 4 Senate Republican, told The Hill.
“I don’t think we see it as a hard vote. I don’t think Collins or Murkowski see it as a hard vote,” Blunt added, referring to Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), the caucus’s two Republicans who support abortion rights.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), also brushed off the potential for political danger.
“No, I mean think about it. They’re going to have late-term abortion, abortion on demand. … It’s not where the country is,” Scott said.
Multiple polls conducted in the wake of the leak have shown that a majority of voters support upholding Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that guarantees abortion access.
Sixty-four percent of respondents to a CBS News-YouGov poll said that they thought the Supreme Court should keep the decision the way it is. Similarly, 66 percent of respondents to a CNN poll said that Roe v. Wade should not be struck down.
But Republicans don’t think abortion will be the top issue in November, as the country faces high levels of inflation and there’s speculation about the potential for a recession.
“Our members are going to continue to hammer away on inflation, the economy, the border, crime,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, while noting that “there are certain states in which this issue is probably an asset no matter what the court decides to [do] because it’s a pro-life constituency.”
Scott, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that he thought President Biden should resign in order to help solve inflation. Asked how abortion would rank as a midterm issue compared to inflation or the border, Scott added: “I think the thing that impacts most people is inflation.”
Republicans believe that when it comes to Wednesday’s showdown, they have firmer footing because of the breadth of the Democratic bill.
The NRSC circulated polling that offered insights into how it will try to frame the abortion fight.
The NRSC document stated that 53 percent of voters would support a GOP candidate “who supports banning abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for the life and physical health of the mother or severe fatal abnormality of the baby” compared to a “Democratic candidate who supports unlimited abortion up until the moment of birth.”
The Senate voted on similar legislation earlier this year. It failed in a 46-48 vote, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joining Republicans in voting against it.
Democrats made changes to the bill, including removing a nonbinding findings section that, among other provisions, referred to restrictions on abortion as perpetuating “white supremacy” and called them “a tool of gender oppression.”
But the bill would prevent governments from limiting a health care provider’s ability to prescribe certain drugs or prevent health care providers from providing immediate abortion services if a delay would risk a patient’s health, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The bill also prevents governments from being able to require that a patient make “medically unnecessary in-person visits” before an abortion, and would also prevent the government from requiring patients to disclose why they are seeking an abortion.
The bill also broadly would prevent governments from enacting laws that would create similar limits or that “singles out the provision of abortion services, health care providers who provide abortion services, or facilities in which abortion services are provided” and “impedes access to abortion services.”
The scope of the bill has sparked pushback from both Collins and Murkowski, who are talking with their colleagues on a narrower bill that would also codify Roe.
Democrats are vowing to use abortion as an issue against GOP Senate hopefuls and incumbents heading into November. The Supreme Court is expected to make its ruling in the next couple of months, which could revive the issue deeper into the summer. If the court strikes down Roe, thirteen states have so-called trigger laws that would kick in to largely ban abortion.
“Senate Republicans can try and run from their role in securing Roe’s extinction, but sooner or later the truth wins out. Without the actions they have taken for years, reproductive rights wouldn’t be staring straight into a doomsday scenario,” Schumer said.
“Senate Republicans will face a choice: either vote to protect the rights of women to exercise freedom over their own bodies, or stand with the Supreme Court as 50 years of women’s rights are reduced to rubble before our very eyes,” he added.
After Democrats seized on his comments over the weekend that it is possible a GOP-controlled Congress could take up a national abortion ban, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to defang the line of attack on Tuesday, stressing that he didn’t believe it could pass the Senate.
“This particular measure the Democrats have today is particularly radical … but I think it’s safe to say there aren’t 60 votes there at the federal level, no matter who happens to be in the majority, no matter who happens to be in the White House,” McConnell said.
Blunt added that he thought Wednesday’s vote could boomerang to hurt Democratic senators in tough races because it will be used as GOP campaign fodder.
“I would think for Democrats in close races that would not be the most comfortable place politically to be,” Blunt said.