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Analysis: It would be nearly impossible for Mitch McConnell to ban abortion nationwide

While Democrats will use the draft Supreme Court opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade to reignite their voters, the general feeling emanating from Republicans like McConnell had been to focus elsewhere.

Democrats are warning that overturning Roe could threaten access to contraception in some states. Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves told CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend that’s not something his state will focus on.

You can understand why Republicans might not want to have discussions about near-total bans on abortion like the one that will go into effect in Mississippi should Roe v. Wade fall.

Some states will have near-total abortion bans

Tapper pushed Reeves about the lack of an exception for victims of incest in Mississippi’s trigger law. Here’s a snippet of that uncomfortable conversation:

TAPPER: Why is it acceptable to force girls who are victims of incest to carry those child — children to term?

REEVES: Well, as you know, Jake, over 92% of all abortions in America are elective procedures.

When you look at the number of those that actually involve incest, it’s less than 1%. And if we need to have that conversation in the future about potential …

TAPPER: This is your law.

REEVES: … exceptions in the trigger law, we can certainly do that.

What else is possible?

But here was McConnell, the nation’s top Republican, telling USA Today in an interview published on May 6 that, yes, Senate Republicans could, technically, look to impose a nationwide abortion ban, even though a majority of Americans don’t want that.

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell said.

“And if this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it’s possible.”

Is a nationwide ban actually possible?

“Yeah, it’s possible,” is not exactly shouting from the rooftops that Republicans would push to enact a nationwide ban. But it’s also not ruling the idea out, and it runs counter to the “let the states decide” mantra some other Republicans have adopted.

When asked about McConnell’s comments on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there’s a “serious risk” of a national ban. “Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in Congress are talking about a national ban on a woman’s right to choose,” she said.

The funny thing is that enacting a nationwide abortion ban feels all but impossible, and McConnell knows that better than anyone.

Filibuster stands in the way of Republicans and Democrats on abortion

Elsewhere in the interview, McConnell definitively ruled out the idea that Republicans would end the filibuster — the custom of allowing a Senate minority to block most legislation — in order to ban abortion. He repeated that vow that he would “never support smashing the legislative filibuster on this issue or any other,” in remarks from the Senate floor on Monday.

Drawing that line, if McConnell sticks by it, would mean Republicans might never have the votes to ban abortion at the federal level.

Many Democrats would happily end the filibuster to protect women’s rights, but they lack the 50 votes they’d need to do it.

Even if Republicans won the House and Senate in November and changed the rules to ban abortion next year, they’d be looking at two more years of Joe Biden as President. He wouldn’t sign a nationwide abortion ban.

Regarding show votes

Just because something won’t become law anytime soon doesn’t mean there won’t be a focus and votes on it.

Republicans voted over and over again a few years ago on proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even after it became clear they would fail.

Democrats will do the same thing this week when they attempt to put every Republican on record opposing making permanent the right of American women to obtain abortions.

That planned vote by Senate Democrats on a bill known as the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify abortion rights, might be an important political moment — but it won’t lead to anything concrete.

That brings us to something else McConnell told USA Today.

“With regard to the abortion issue, I think it’s pretty clear where Senate Republicans stand,” McConnell said.

About Collins and Murkowski

I’m going to pause him here because it is actually quite confusing where Sen. Susan Collins, the moderate Maine Republican, stands on the issue of abortion.

She’s long said she supports abortion rights and suggested she felt misled by the GOP-appointed justices she voted to confirm to the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — who may now vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

However! Collins also signaled she will vote against the Democrats’ bill to codify the principles behind Roe v. Wade into law. She says the Democratic proposal is too broad, and she wants a so-called conscience clause to allow providers to refuse to perform abortions for religious or moral reasons.
Collins has her own proposal with Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska that would codify Roe, called the Reproductive Choice Act. Democrats say Collins’ proposal is too weak. Read it here.

That’s called having it both ways: Collins is both for codifying Roe v. Wade (her own proposal) and yet will vote against codifying it into law (Democrats’ proposal).

Why aren’t Democrats looking for bipartisanship?

Here too is a question for Democrats. The proposal on which they’re pushing for a vote is nearly identical to one that failed in February.

It should be possible, in a more-than-McConnell way, for Democrats to push a vote on something simpler. They could get those few GOP votes, or at least try to get them.

A bipartisan vote in favor of protecting abortion rights could send the message that it is a minority of the country’s lawmakers standing in the way of something most Americans support. Instead, Democrats are choosing to vote on a bill that may not even get the vote of every Democrat if Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia opposes it again.
Protesting around the country in favor of abortion rights — in Collins’ home state of Maine and even at the homes of GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices — suggests that if the draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to ban abortion holds, the issue could motivate more Democrats than Republicans.
RELATED: Office of anti-abortion organization in Wisconsin targeted in arson attack, police say

But if either side is expecting quick movement on Capitol Hill, where a minority can stop any legislation, that side is going to be disappointed.

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