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Democrats turn focus to abortion after months of midterm message uncertainty

With no chance of successfully passing a bill, they are pleading with voters to send them more senators to change filibuster rules and codify a woman’s abortion rights.

But they face a daunting environment nonetheless.

“We will vote to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised on the Senate floor Tuesday despite the fact Democrats don’t have the votes to pass such a law.

But in the wake of the stunning Supreme Court leak that showed a majority of justices voting to overturn the landmark abortion decision, Democrats are grappling with the tenuous reality of their 50-50 Senate: a fractured majority that leaves them no options to enshrining abortion rights in law and instead gives them only the power to keep it in the spotlight ahead of the November elections. While some Democratic candidates are calling on senators to expand the Supreme Court or gut the filibuster to protect Roe vs. Wade, neither of those options stands a chance of passing in the 50-50 Senate.

“The 50-50 Senate sucks,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, lamented Tuesday, adding it was her goal to try and get more Democrats elected that would back abortion rights in the future.

For now, leaders are looking to force votes on abortion rights that will put members on the record and keep the issue in the headlines. It may be the best — and only — path forward for a Democratic Party that has struggled to keep voters enthusiastic ahead of the midterms.

“We are discussing this point what our next move is,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. “There is no decision about expanding the court in the early stages here, but there is a discussion about floor action.”

But floor action will also expose long-established rifts in Democratic ranks. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, doesn’t back a law that codifies abortion rights for women. In February, he voted with Republicans against advancing the Women’s Health Protection Act, which protects the rights of women to access abortion in the US. And both Manchin and Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reiterated Tuesday they would not back any action to gut the filibuster for abortion or any other issue.

Democrats still see a path, however, to use the Supreme Court decision to turn out their base at the polls. Democrats are hopeful it could be a swift turn of fate for a party that has been struggling to rally behind a singular and cohesive message ever since efforts to pass the President’s sweeping social agenda plan faltered in December.

“The simple fact is that poll after poll show that Americans do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “I think it will spark outrage, anger, astonishment and a lot of votes.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, another Democrat from Connecticut, argued that after decades of fighting to overturn Roe, Republicans may be on the losing side of the argument.

“Republicans are coming to terms with the fact that their position on reproductive choice is widely out of step with the American public,” he said. “This is going to be a deeply unpopular decision. It is going to have significant ramifications for Republicans.”

Republicans, however, say they believe overturning Roe is still the right thing to do.

“I really do believe that abortion is wrong, and I think most people in America don’t want to see unlimited abortion,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican.

Collins calls draft Roe opinion 'completely inconsistent' with what Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said during hearings and meetings

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he didn’t think the issue would be as galvanizing as Democrats believed it was.

“We’ll see. I think when you talk to people, the big issue they are dealing with right now is inflation, crime, the border, stuff like that,” Scott said.

Democrats say it’s not just abortion that is at stake in the upcoming election. In a series of interviews Tuesday, multiple Democrats pointed out they believed Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion struck at the heart of privacy protections that had been enshrined in decades of precedent.

“If this turns out to be the opinion of the court and it’s issued, it could have a major impact on the outcome of this election,” Durbin said. “When you go to an issue as fundamental as privacy and an individual’s right to privacy, control of their bodies and their ability to make their own decision and the court just basically eliminates it, it is certainly a mobilizing factor in the next election.”

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.

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