U.S. senators go on the record with their stance on abortion

Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked efforts on Wednesday to enshrine abortion rights into federal law. Democrats fell well short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster on codifying abortion access, with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin joining all Republicans in voting against the Women’s Health Protection Act. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff from the U.S. Capitol with more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, growing concern among Democrats that the Supreme Court will soon overturn Roe v. Wade led them to try to pass federal legislation that would guarantee abortion rights and prevent recent state restrictions from taking effect.

    That effort fell short in the U.S. Senate today, as Democrat Joe Manchin joined all Republicans in voting against the Women's Health Protection Act.

    For more on all this, our Lisa Desjardins joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    So, hello, Lisa. You were there to watch this. Remind us exactly, what was this vote on?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, this was on a bill, Democrats' version of a law that would make abortion legal throughout the country in statute, codified, essentially, as they say.

    Now, this bill, a version of it, also passed the House earlier this year, but failed in the Senate one other time, as it did again today. Now, what we did learn from this debate is just how much each party distrusts the other on this not only divisive debate, but very high-stakes one.

    Here's some of what we heard in the debate today.

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):

    Republicans have been clear, they have been explicit, even that they are not going to stop at Roe. They're not going to stop at the state level, and they're not going to stop at abortion.

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX):

    Democrats have taken things to the very nth degree. And they're pushing for a bill that is far out of line with the views of most Americans over this divisive and emotional topic.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Both parties knew going into this vote that it would fail today.

    What was interesting to me though, Judy, is sitting in that chamber looking at the Senate floor, there really was no sense of the gravity of it, senators coming and going, very few Democrats on the floor, except if you looked up into the gallery in the balcony. The only piece of the Senate chamber that was full was the one reserved for staffers.

    And I saw young staffers there watching with very focused attention.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, for the Democrats and for those who want to codify Roe v. Wade, who want to put it into law, what then now are the options, if any?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The short answer that — is that Democrats do not have the votes for any of these options.

    But I do think it's important to go through, in theory, what Democrats could try to do. So let's take a look.

    The first option would be to get 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Right now, there are some 52 senators that have said they do want to codify Roe in some way, but they don't have more than that. Now, the other option is to get 50 votes to change the filibuster, completely break the filibuster entirely.

    And right now, however, there are just 48 senators. Senators Manchin and Sinema on the Democratic side have said they will not do that.

    Now, the longest shot of all is that process budget reconciliation, which we have talked about before, which requires just 50 votes in the Senate. However, again, Democrats fall short on that. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said that is not something that he would support.

    So, at this point, legislatively, Democrats really don't have an avenue to putting Roe vs. Wade into federal law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, as we know, we are just six months away from these crucial midterm elections.

    Walk us through the politics of this right now.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    The politics are extensive and especially meaningful at this moment for Democrats, because they are hearing from their base a sense of very high dissatisfaction with them. Even though it's clear that Republicans have been the ones that have changed Supreme Court, who have been pushing to make abortion illegal or give the states that option, Democrats' base feel that their lawmakers here in Congress have not done enough.

    I spoke to some high-ranking aides and some lawmakers, Democratic senators, today about this. They believe that will change once the decision comes out from the Supreme Court. But, right now, Democrats in the Senate and in Congress have a serious problem as they go into potentially a rough midterm season.

    And let's look at polling for where the country is on this kind of issue, what Congress should do, in theory. This is a new poll out from Monmouth out just this week. In that poll, 44 percent of people said they believe Congress should allow abortion nationwide. That is what Democrats would like to do.

    Just 9 percent would like to ban it nationwide, which is what some Republicans would like to do; 43 percent say let states decide, which would be the effect of the opinion that we now expect from the Supreme Court, or at least what the draft opinion said.

    The politics are very significant here. And it's interesting to me. It almost feels like the politics at this moment are more in the atmosphere here in Congress than really the effect of what's about to happen. I do believe in coming weeks that will change as we hear from the Supreme Court.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, interesting that you hear them saying we will see whether public opinion is shifting in some way when that opinion comes out.

    Lisa Desjardins, reporting from the Capitol, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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