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Abortion ‘Test Vote’ the Latest Political Theatre in Gridlocked Senate

'The widespread sentiment in my conference is this issue will be dealt with at the state level... '

(Headline USA) In a political ploy designed to incite radical abortion activists into further protest, rather than produce any actual result, leftist Democrats are holding a sham vote to legislate killing unborn babies.

The vote is expected to fail, giving rise to criticism that Democrats are simply using it to build a pro-abortion narrative. President Joe Biden has called on Democrats to enshrine the nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court ruling into law after the disclosure of a draft opinion that would overturn the landmark decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion services.

But passing bills is easier said than done in the narrowly split Congress — reflective of a deeply divided nation.

A test vote Wednesday in the Senate on a Democratic bill to protect access to abortions is expected to fail, blocked by a Republican-led filibuster.

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At the same time, Republicans led by Sen. Mitch McConnell face similar political problems trying to ban abortions nationwide, even if they wrest control of the chamber in next fall’s midterm elections.

Instead, whatever the Supreme Court decides on Roe v. Wade in its final opinion this summer almost guarantees a new era of political fighting in Congress over abortion policy, filibuster rules and the most basic rights to health care, privacy and protecting the unborn.

“All of us will have to answer for this vote for the rest of our time in public office,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ahead of Wednesday’s action.

In recent years, abortion access debates in many ways have come to a standstill in Congress, a political draw, as lawmakers faced the limits of trying to move public policy beyond the Roe v. Wade court decision. Bills would routinely come up for votes — to expand or limit abortion services — only to fall along typically party line votes or be stripped out of broader legislative packages.

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But the Supreme Court’s conservative 6-3 majority, solidified during the Trump era, has ignited an urgent shift to the forefront in Congress. McConnell stunned Washington when he said “it’s possible” to see a national abortion ban.

In an interview with USA Today, McConnell recently said, “If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area.”

But on Tuesday McConnell acknowledged that if Republicans become the majority in the Senate they still are unlikely to have enough votes to ban abortion outright.

“The widespread sentiment in my conference is this issue will be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell said. He said Republicans won’t have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

Likewise, Democrat Brian Schatz of Hawaii said for the other side, “I think we have to be explicit and tell the truth, which is, we don’t currently have the votes.” Still, he said hopefully that if voters elect more senators who favor abortion rights, “we will put this into federal law.”

The two Republican senators who support abortion access — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who faces her own reelection in November, and Susan Collins of Maine — have proposed a separate bill that would counter the Supreme Court’s action.

But both senators, who voted to confirm most of Trump’s justices, are expected to stick with the Republican Party this week and block the Democrat bill as too broad.

At the same time, Democrats have largely panned the Collins-Murkowski effort as insufficient, leaving no hopes, for now, of any compromise.

And rank-and-file Republicans distanced themselves from McConnell’s initial remarks, saying an all-out national ban on abortions is not something they can deliver.

“The reality is is that you would never get that done here,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Democrats are unconvinced that Republicans, who have fought for years to deny abortion services, would give that fight up now and let the states decide.

In the House, where Democrats have the slimmest of majority, lawmakers approved the Women’s Health Protection Act last year on a largely party-line vote once the Supreme Court first signaled it was considering the issue by allowing a Texas law’s ban on abortions to take effect.

But the bill has languished in the Senate, evenly split 50-50 with Democrat control because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to cast a tie-braking vote. Unable to mount the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, a test vote failed in February, with one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joining Republicans to block the bill’s consideration.

A similar outcome is expected Wednesday when the Senate tries again to pass the legislation, which would put the guaranteed right to abortion into law.

It’s the first of what Schumer promises will be repeated efforts to show voters where the parties stand, and continue to feed red meat to his party’s base and give them reasons to protest.

“This is no longer just a abstract exercise: Now we know women’s rights are at stake,” Schumer said. “So this vote is the first step. We are going to keep fighting.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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