Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Monday that under his leadership Republicans would never abolish the legislative filibuster to pass a national ban on abortion.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on abortion, the GOP would not sacrifice the 60-vote threshold for political gain.
“I’ve clearly stated I will never support smashing the legislative filibuster on this issue or any other,” he said.
The pledge comes as Democrats and Republicans face an increasingly tense political environment. Last week, a draft opinion leaked from the Supreme Court indicating that a majority of justices were in favor of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide.
Democrats have seized on recent comments by Mr. McConnell suggesting that when Roe is gone, the GOP might consider a national abortion ban. Far-left lawmakers, in particular, argue that Republicans will gut the filibuster to outlaw abortion, so Democrats should jettison the 60-vote threshold now while they are still in power.
“Does anyone have any doubt that Mitch McConnell will end the filibuster to pass a national abortion ban when Roe is overturned?” said Julian Castro, a failed Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of housing and urban development.
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Mr. McConnell, however, contends such rhetoric is inaccurate and only meant to scare voters and lawmakers into supporting a power-grab by Democrats.
“Democrats are renewing their calls to break the Senate in order to pack the court,” said Mr. McConnell. “They want to destroy two institutions for the price of one.”
By overturning Roe, the Supreme Court would essentially rule that abortion is not a right protected by the Constitution. The move would kick the issue to the state level, where abortion could be banned or expanded.
Democrats say the move would create an uneven patchwork of varying abortion laws to the detriment of women, especially low-income women of color.
“Abortion bans fall hardest on low-income people, on people of color, on survivors of rape and incest, and on those working two jobs for less than enough to support the kids they already have,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat.
Since the draft opinion leaked, Democrats have been eager to make abortion a major issue in this year’s midterms. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has already pledged to put all senators on record by holding a long-shot vote to codify Roe into federal law later this week.
“This week the Senate will be confronted with a simple but urgent question: do women in this country have a basic right to make their own choices when it comes to seeking an abortion,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat.
For the effort to succeed, at least 60 votes would be needed in the evenly split Senate to overcome an expected filibuster by Republicans. Almost every lawmaker admits the vote is an exercise in futility.
Similar legislation to codify abortion rights into law failed in the Senate earlier this year. The bill not only failed to get 60 votes, but it failed to even get all Democrats on board.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate West Virginia Democrat who has often identified as pro-life, voted with Republicans at the time to block consideration of the bill.
But several Democrats are renewing their calls to abolish the filibuster to ram through legislation protecting abortion. They say that even without Mr. Manchin, a post-filibuster Senate could potentially codify Roe with the help of two pro-choice GOP lawmakers.
Advocates say nothing should be written off when abortion is at risk.
“I think we should get rid of the filibuster,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat. “I think we should vote for our values. I believe we should fight for everything we believe in at this moment.”