As Senate leaders prepare a vote on Democrats’ bill to protect abortion rights on the federal level, senators like Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) are calling on lawmakers to end the filibuster so that the bill can be passed.
On Monday, Sanders pointed out that Republicans have manipulated the filibuster in the past in order to advance anti-Democratic causes.
“If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right wing judges nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster to keep abortion legal,” Sanders said in a tweet.
Shortly after Donald Trump took office in 2017, Republicans took advantage of their slim majority to change Senate rules in order to allow right-wing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed with a simple majority vote of 51 votes. The move capped off 10 months of obstruction by the GOP, led by then-Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination, Merrick Garland.
At the time, Republicans claimed that they were acting to protect the public’s interests by not allowing a nominee to go through during an election year, even though Obama’s nomination took place nine months before the election. But that argument was shown to be completely disingenuous when they rammed through the nomination of far right Justice Amy Coney Barrett just weeks after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died; Barrett was sworn in only five days before the 2020 presidential election.
Progressive lawmakers and advocates have been calling for an end to the filibuster for years, saying that it’s the largest obstacle to progress on vital climate and social issues. Indeed, the filibuster will spell the death of the abortion rights bill that House Democrats passed last September.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has scheduled a vote on the bill this week, saying that the vote will force Republicans — and certain Democrats — to have their votes to deny Americans abortion access on the public record.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) also recently called for an end to the filibuster in order to pass the abortion bill. In an interview with Teen Vogue last week, Warren said that she plans to fight to end the filibuster even if conservative Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) say they won’t allow it.
“We may not end the filibuster in the next hour and a half, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight to do exactly that. To make change takes not only passion, but persistence. We gotta turn the heat up under it, and keep it up. Those who don’t want to make change count on the fact that people get tired,” Warren said. “Over Roe v. Wade, we don’t have the luxury of getting tired. So if we want to make real change, we’ve got to push [to end the filibuster].”
Abortion rights advocates say that President Joe Biden should step in as a leader of the party to whip obstructionists like Manchin and Sinema in line.
Both Manchin and Sinema have said that they oppose changing filibuster rules in order to protect abortion access, arguing that the filibuster protects reproductive rights, even though the opposite is true right now. Even if filibuster rules were changed, Manchin has described himself as “pro-life” — or more accurately, anti-abortion — meaning that it’s possible that he would vote against passing the bill anyway.
If Manchin votes “no” on the bill this week, it could further fuel criticisms and frustrations against the conservative lawmaker, who has spent nearly the entirety of Biden’s time in office blocking the Democratic agenda.