Schumer’s announcement comes in the wake of a report that the Supreme Court court is set to dismantle Roe v. Wade, according to a draft opinion leaked to Politico. The Supreme Court later confirmed the draft was authentic.
“A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “This is as urgent and real as it gets. We will vote to protect a woman’s right to choose and every American is going to see [on] which side every senator stands.”
Democrats have widely decried the draft ruling, which Politico noted is not yet final. But they are also limited in what they can do. The Senate needs either 60 votes in favor of abortion rights or 50 votes in support of nuking the filibuster — as of now, it has neither.
The House passed the the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill to codify abortion rights, last year. The Senate attempted a vote on it in March, but Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) blocked it from coming to the floor for debate.
Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also oppose ending the filibuster, which would be necessary to pass legislation with fewer than 60 votes. After the leaked draft was published, Sinema reiterated that she backs the Women’s Health Protection Act, but also referenced ”[p]rotections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women’s access to health care”— an allusion to the filibuster. Manchin said Tuesday that he continues to support filibuster rules.
Some Democrats called on the Senate to do away with the filibuster in order to codify abortion rights.
“Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter. “And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”
Schumer did not address the filibuster in his remarks.
The majority leader also castigated the Supreme Court’s conservative justices for the draft ruling, which was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are likely to join Alito, according to Politico.
Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett were all confirmed under President Donald Trump ― the first of them after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to hold a vote on then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee during his term.
Schumer said GOP senators who pushed for these justices are to blame. He urged Americans to vote, call their representatives and make their voices heard if they support abortion rights.
“The blame for this decision falls squarely on Republican senators, and the Senate Republicans as a whole, who spent years pushing extremist judges, spent years confirming three far right justices to the Supreme Court, but who claimed somehow this day would never come,” he said. “But this day has come and we will fight it all the way.”
Schumer also accused conservative justices of misleading the Senate about their views on abortion rights.
“Several of these conservative justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation, all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their bodily autonomy and the constitutional rights they’ve relied on for over half a century,” Schumer said.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voiced similar criticisms of two conservative justices after the leaked draft was published. Collins supports abortion rights, but voted to confirm both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins said in a statement, noting that the final decisions have not yet been released.
Collins did not comment on whether she would vote to codify abortion rights.
Such a move does have support from President Joe Biden, who on Tuesday reiterated that he backs codifying abortion rights.
“[I]f the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Biden said in a statement. “And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”