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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Must Face New Realities Regarding Filibuster Reform, Supreme Court

From “Democrats rush to find strategy to counter Texas abortion law” by Hugo Lowell at The Guardian:

Seizing on the Texas decision, liberal Democrats have also called anew for an expansion of the supreme court from nine to 13 seats, which would enable Biden to appoint four liberal-leaning justices to shift the politics on the bench.

The legislative response is aimed at reversing more than 500 restrictions introduced by Republican state legislatures in recent months and “trigger laws” that would automatically outlaw abortions if the supreme court overturned its ruling in the landmark Roe v Wade case that was supposed to cement abortion rights in the US.

But while such protections are almost certain to be straightforwardly approved by the Democratic-controlled House, all of the proposals face a steep uphill climb in the face of sustained Republican opposition and a filibuster in the 50-50 Senate.

The Senate filibuster rule – a procedural tactic that requires a supermajority to pass most bills – was in part why the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, focused on stacking the supreme court with conservative justices rather than pursue legislation to enact abortion restrictions at a federal level.

Forty-eight Democrats currently sponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate. Two Republicans – Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – have previously indicated support for abortion rights, but the numbers fall far short of the 60-vote threshold required to avoid a filibuster.

Against that backdrop, a majority of Senate Democrats have called for eliminating the filibuster entirely. But reforming the filibuster requires the support of all Democrats in the Senate, and conservative Democratic senators including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema are outspoken supporters of the rule.

The broad concern demonstrates how urgent the issue has become for Democrats, and with the Texas law in effect after the failure of the emergency stay, many reproductive rights advocates worry that Democrats will be unable to meet the moment with meaningful action.

The heat is on Republican Senators Murkowski and especially Collins for her repeated assertions that Justice Kavanaugh would defend the settled law of Roe v. Wade. Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema have stated their opposition to filibuster reform, but U.S. political history is littered with examples of politicians who reversed or walked back earlier positions to more realistic compromises.

The Texas decision ought to be a game-changer in terms of mobilizing moderate women of both parties. The other alternative is a Democratic upset in the 2022 midterm elections, including a pick-up of 2 or 3 U.S. Senate seats, which would make Manchin’s and Sinema’s filibuster positions of less consequence.

Meanwhile, Democrats must adjust to the sobering reality that ‘the Roberts Court‘ is now history and brace for more partisan Supreme Court decisions going forward.

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