Sanders: GOP Ended Filibuster to Pack Supreme Court, So Dems Must End It to Save Abortion Rights

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Yves here. I know some readers like to hate on Sanders, but as a non-Democrat, he remains virtually the only guy in the room to make sensible, as in sufficiently bloody-minded, statements of what needs to be done. As a lone Senator from a small state, all he has is a bully pulpit and he is still making good use of it.

By Jake Johnson. Originally published at Common Dreams

On the eve of a key procedural vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a floor speech Tuesday that the Senate’s Democratic majority must use its power to end the legislative filibuster and codify abortion rights into federal law.

Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged that Senate Democrats don’t currently have the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster, an archaic rule that has enabled the Republican minority to stonewall much of the majority party’s agenda over the past year.

“It is not good enough to just talk about passing this bill,” Sanders said of the WHPA, legislation that would cement the right to abortion care free from medically unnecessary restrictions as the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing majority gears up to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We must end the filibuster and pass it with 50 votes,” said the Vermont senator. “You know, I hear a lot of talk from my Democratic colleagues about the need for unity. Well, if there was ever a time for unity, now is that time.”

Despite calling Wednesday’s vote “one of the most important… in decades,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not given any indication that he plans to pursue filibuster reform if Republicans and right-wing Democrats block the WHPA.

Just 50 votes and a tie-breaker from the vice president are required to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, but at least two right-wing Democrats—Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—have refused to accept any changes to the rule. Both Democratic senators openly defended the filibuster in the hours after Justice Samuel Alito’s extremist draft opinion was leaked to the press.

With Manchin opposed to the WHPA and the filibuster intact, the House-passed legislation is doomed to fail in the Senate.

In his speech Tuesday, Sanders noted that Republicans’ 2017 decision to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court nominees empowered them to “do what they could not do legislatively: Make abortion illegal.”

“Candidate Donald Trump promised that he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who supported overturning Roe v. Wade,” Sanders said. “And, unfortunately, out of the many lies Trump made during his campaign and presidency, this seems to be the one promise he kept.”

The Vermont senator emphasized that Alito, a George W. Bush nominee, as well as Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett were selected by presidents who lost the popular vote. All four justices—plus Clarence Thomas, who was nominated by George H.W. Bush—are expected to vote to overturn Roe.

“Is it any wonder why Americans all over the country are losing faith in their democracy?” Sanders said. “If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right-wing justices nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster to make abortion legal and safe.”

If the Supreme Court ends Roe, the implications for abortion rights—and other key freedoms—will be massive.

In more than half of all U.S. states, abortion will likely be prohibited. If Republicans retake Congress in November and the White House in 2024, they could pursue a sweeping federal ban on abortion. The United States’ maternal mortality crisis, already the worst among rich countries, will potentially become more severe, with the impacts disproportionately hitting the poor.

“Let’s be clear: The Supreme Court will not be able to ban abortion,” Sanders said Tuesday. “If you are wealthy and you have the means to get on an airplane or drive hundreds of miles—you will always have access to a safe abortion. But if you are poor or if you are in the working class, you will not.”

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  1. orlbucfan

    Senator Bernie Sanders is among the rarest of all creatures: a true public servant. And that is internationally as well as here in the United States. Chuck Schumer is a (family blog) corrupted joke!

    1. KLG

      Yeah, but IIRC Schumer has bragged about his very high SAT score. So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Really? Schumer bragged about that?

        It inspires me to offer a suggestion to political graphic artist-satirists. I imagine huge posters featuring a portrait of Trump in best Mussolini pose and saying . . . ” Schumer is a very stable genius”.

  2. Glossolalia

    If you think the Democrats are angry now, just wait until 2024 when Republicans expand the Supreme Court and eliminate the filibuster so they can outlaw abortion nationally.

    1. BobbyK

      EXACTLY, and you will see mansinema simply gobsmacked that their republican colleagues would do such a thing.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Since mansinema secretly favor that very thing, they would have to be awfully good at pretending to be gobsmacked. As would the rest of the Sinemachin Democrats.

    2. TimH

      I think that the presumption that the DNC actually cares to pass abortion protections is flawed. More individual Dem than Reb senators/reps want it, sure, but the party machines are something else, as Bernie found out when HRC bribed the DNC to downplay him.

      Abortion protection laws could have been passed years ago. As Greenwald points out, R. v W. is a flawed decision and vulnerable to challenge. So the hand-wringing now is at least partly BS.

  3. jefemt

    I love the Senatorial PR, talking to the empty chamber.

    Everyone else is out eating steak, drinking Martini’s and oogling the young horseflesh they will be debauching on their coked-up sprees of excess.

    Don’t get me wrong- Sanders speaks Truth to Power, and I appreciate it.

    Our esteemed Senator Daines, on the other hand, speaks inanity to the empty chamber, witnessed by an adoring staffer to lend support and give a sense of a ‘group in accord’, bearing witness to the witless…
    The Apt Analogy prize will NOT go to Daines this time…

    Sea turtles and eagles.

    1. Michael Ismoe

      I love the Senatorial PR, talking to the empty chamber.

      That’s what progressives do best. Although most can also tweet.

      Sorry if I want my senators to perform, I’d have voted for Lady Gaga. If I send him $27 will he endorse “his friend, Joe” again? For $54 will he just go away?

      “57 House Republicans voted against a nearly $40 billion bill to aid Ukraine in its war against Russia.” Every Democrat in the House voted to provide the money.
      When The Crazy Party is the anti-war party, I guess I am crazy too.

      1. Aumua

        If the Republicans were anti-war, or if there were any genuine anti-war sentiments on the right in general, then I would agree. I believe they are not, although they have been dancing around their bloodlust admirably lately. They voted against the bill because it’s a) Biden’s, b) spending, c) they probably want a more active participation of the U.S. in Ukraine in some cases. If this war were happening under a Republican administration you can bet we would be hearing a very different tune from the right.

    2. Mildred Montana

      >”I love the Senatorial PR, talking to the empty chamber.”

      I mentioned this to a friend once, that speeches in the chamber were made to nobody. He, a fairly well-informed person, was astonished and incredulous. Such is the power of propaganda.

      Truth is, while your favorite senator is pontificating on C-SPAN, trying to persuade those empty chairs of the wisdom of his views, the 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭 business of government is being conducted in various Congressional backrooms and Washington restaurants by Congresspeople with better (and more lucrative) things to do than listen to a pointless soliloquy.

      They know it’s merely theater to entertain the masses. So should we.

      1. AlexisS

        Alas, C-span used to show the empty chamber, or the chamber, full or empty… I believe that Congress threatened them and they took out those cameras. Still, C-Span is one of the best things going, IMHO.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      At one point, Manchin said Biden hadn’t even been in touch with him. I doubt Biden has said anything to Manchin. Biden doesn’t do conflict except with people he perceives as pinkos.

  4. Peter Nightingale

    Question: Roe v. Wade dates back to 1973. Why has the U.S. one-party system not passed laws to protect abortion in almost 50 years?

    Answer: Because entitlements for the ruling class is all the one-party system cares about. The reasoning is simple:

    (1) Ruling class women are not affected. They have enough money to get what they need;

    (2) As to the people, let them fight for abortion, a matter of life and death. None of it threatens the ruling class and its entitlements;

    (3) Let the people fight this fight so they don’t have time to think about how the ruling class loots the common good and exploits the working people;

    (4) It’s a divisive ploy, one of many that work without fail. Capitalist thievery, oppression and exploitation live another day.

    All of this fits perfectly in Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated. It’s the lifeblood of inverted totalitarianism. See HEDGES & WOLIN (1/8): CAN CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY COEXIST?

    Bernie Sanders is probably genuinely concerned, but whether he likes it or not, in the Imperial Washington Theater, he’s plays the pivotal part of the court jester.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If Sanders were to announce the founding of a Legal Abortion Party, open to those who wish to join it to work for the single-issue issue of Legal Abortion, would the system-lords keep laughing? Or would they treat it as a jest-too-far?

      1. anon y'mouse

        he wouldn’t leave the party that openly snatched the prez nom out from under him, and kept taking the pittance checks (valuable to them, but meaningless ultimately and a kick in the face metaphorically) of his working class supporters to ultimately lend his efforts to Biden.

        do you think he really would step out in such a way? he always folds at the critical time.

        too little, too late Bernie. you can’t shame those who have none.

  5. Bobby Gladd

    “ codify abortion rights into federal law”?

    Which the current nine member Supreme Court would simply strike right back down, no? Expand the court? Pardon my dubiety.

    1. Big River Bandido

      Um, no. That argument is a convenient fiction rather like the 60-vote threshold.

      Most laws that are overturned are state laws, not federal. Supreme Court justices hesitate before nullifying acts of Congress, for fear of Congress clipping its own powers as payback (as, for example, a courtpacking scheme would do). Very few congressional statues get overturned; the Court only does it in cases like VRA where they know they have a solid political consensus in Congress to sustain it.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    Not a legal person, but maybe along with eliminating the filibuster, they could also pass legislation making Marbury v Madison moot. From my understanding, that decision allowed the Supremes to arrogate power to themselves that the Constitution didn’t explicitly say they had, namely the right of unelected officials to overrule elected ones in Congress. The more I read about that decision over the years, the less I like it.

    But that would require stupid people in Congress to do some actual work, so clearly it will never happen. They’ll substitute some bathos filled photo ops and fundraising emails instead and call it good.

      1. Fraibert

        Moreover, you may decide you like _Marbury_ more once you consider that, without that case, there is no general legal authority in the U.S. that has the power to order the federal government to comply with the Constitution.

        In more immediate terms, let’s say Congress passes some laws criminalizing “disinformation” and there’s no _Marbury_. The only legal way to “fix” the issue is to get Congress to change the law. That would remain the case even if this hypothetical law is written in a manner that prohibits protesting against its provisions.

        To me, the above hypothetical illustrates one reason why the Supreme Court, or some similar unelected body, should exist in to protect certain basic rights that are actually limitations on governmental power (e.g., right to free speech and due process). More generally, since the federal government is not based on a notion of Parliamentary supremacy, I think you need some third party to decide whether the federal government (in legislation or executive action) exceeds its fundamental authority. (As we’ve seen throughout the 20th Century, the Presidency in particular has gobbled up as much power as possible, though even Congress in 1901 had much less authority than it did by 1945.)

  7. Fastball

    Whether Sanders himself even knows it or not, his only purpose in office is to confuse gullible people that there’s a possibility that voting for any Democrat will serve their interests. Much sturm and drang is always made about how this Democrat is “fighting” (as in Warren on the View) or that Independent is “fighting”. They may even believe it themselves. But they don’t actually succeed in pressuring the party. All they actually succeed in doing is wooing gullible people back into the party. And the degree to which that works is debatable, though, not debatably, after decades of total betrayal, waning.

    Sanders would be better on the outside than inside the swamp.

    1. sd

      Do you really think Christian Smalls would have been invited to the White House if Sanders hadn’t first invited him to speak to Senate Committee on the Budget?

      Doesn’t matter if Biden used Smalls for political cover – the very act of Smalls setting foot in the Oval Office gave concrete legitimacy to labor’s fight for unions.

      1. Michael Ismoe

        Do you really think Christian Smalls would have been invited to the White House if Sanders hadn’t first invited him to speak to Senate Committee on the Budget?

        Yes. It’s midterm election year.

        1. sd

          That doesn’t make sense. This was a Senate Committee not House. And terms for Biden and Sanders are not up for election.

      2. DanB

        Let’s not overrate/overestimate any “legitimacy” coming from Biden and the Dems. It’s public relations all the way down with these “folks,” and that includes the so-called Squad, who should be re-monikered “the Squat”.
        As for Bernie, he may mean well, but in the end he’s ineffectual and functionally serves his “good friend Joe Biden.”

      3. Fastball

        I would argue it’s irrelevant that Christian Smalls got invited to the White House. That not only means nothing, but Biden himself and the Democrats proved it meant nothing by continuing to support anti-workers and forced birth politicians.

    2. marym

      As the right has shown, there needs to be people on the inside and the outside of electoral politics. That there are so few inside, and such a lack of coherent movement building on the outside isn’t Sanders’s fault.

      1. Fastball

        Sanders’ fault is in giving false hope to people and legitimacy to a system and process that only works for oligarchic and corporate owners. And if he wanted to work on the inside, he’d have to stop, for example, giving people like Biden (his very good friend) false legitimacy and also doing things like legitimizing what the U.S. is doing in military terms around the world.

        Even Naked Capitalism itself in the person of Lambert Strether has acknowledged that the Democratic Party is, in his words, “a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”. It needs to be buried and the only way to do that is from outside. (By destroying the Democratic Party).

        And, just from my point of view, the struggle now is not left vs. right – it’s bottom vs. top. Sanders false movement building functions as sabotage in that milieu and yes, I aver, that is his fault, though, there’s plenty to go around.

        1. Nikkikat

          I agree with you fastball. I think Bernie is a sheep herder. I believed in him until he ran for President the first time. They screwed him over and he went out and campaigned for Hillary. Made me sick. No one that believed in the things he said he believed in would ever ask anyone to work or donate money to Hillary Clinton. He was a sheep herder from the get go. Anyone can talk a big game, he knows these things will never come to pass. He knows Biden isn’t going to do anything.
          As to Chris Smalls, he may not know it yet, but stepping into that Oval Office, was a sell out, attending that fools hearing for Bernie was a sell out.
          He has been had. I was taught organizing by the old time Teamsters Union. I never ate their food, sat down with them, went in their offices or consorted with the enemy, ever. You do and it’s over.

          1. orlbucfan

            I disagree with both of you. I worked both Sanders’ campaigns, and before them, Howard Dean’s even though I knew his politics. I don’t know where you live, but I’m in east central FL. You can’t get more institutionally politically corrupt and stupid than this state. I am a lifelong political Futurist, an American leftie. I would love to see both the Dumbocrats and GOPukes disintegrate, but it won’t go down in my lifetime. Bernie is a lone wolf in a shark pit. He knows how to swim in it, and he calls it out. Who else is doing that, and winning elections??

  8. LadyXoc

    Wow. Nobody wants to talk about Ukraine shutting of EU gas supplies. Guess Ukraine War low-key fell off.

    1. drumlin woodchchuckles

      Really? Did Ukraine do that? Why would Ukraine do that? To win friends and influence people in EUrope? In gEUrmany in particular?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Ukraine did do that, see Links. But it was not “gas supplies,” it was one pipeline through the Lugansk Republic, which the militias have just about fully taken. That pipeline serves mainly Hungary, which is not playing ball with the EU on sanctioning Russian oil.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well, that won’t change Hungary’s mind. That will only harden Hungary’s opposition.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s in Links. Suggest you pay better attention. That’s where we put news items, in case you haven’t worked it out. And we don’t write posts on developments that are well covering in news and/or can be summarized in one paragraph, as above.

      This is thread-jacking, which is a violation of our written site Policies. I suggest you read them before commenting again. Commenting here is a privilege, not a right, and we have a warning at the top of Links every day that we are in low tolerance mode with violations.

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    The people who like hating on Sanders are the people who believe themselves unable to save themselves or eachother and yearned for a Messiah to reach down and save them. Sanders never advertised himself as a Messiah. So their sense of betrayal at discovering that Sanders was not the Messiah which he himself never said he was is their own problem arising from within their own hopeless minds. They may be right to feel hopeless. It could be the properly scientific approach to take. That would be another matter.

    One could fairly say ( as Tucker Carlson once did in a little episode-cast) that Sanders is/was the lamest possible revolutionary. Sanders was always pro-self-organizing-masses and always anti-vanguard, and showed it by deleting himself from vanguardness when some vanguarding behavior might have destroyed some very evil enemies like Biden at some very crucial keypoints.

    If Sanders were a Red Gingrich, he might take this moment to announce the founding of the Legal Abortion Party, open to anyone who wants to join. And within that announcement he could say that the Legal Abortion Party will caucus with the Democrats for the remainder of this pre-2022-Congress and then dare the DemSenators to take away his assignments. And he could then announce the offering of a Legalise Roe Bill and dare the Democrats to withhold their support from it in public.

    But that would require Sanders to be a Red Gingrich, which he has never said or even hinted that he ever was. But disappointed Messiah-seekers can choose to feel betrayed all over again by Sanders about this too, if they like.

    1. Anon

      Re: Sanders… he was the solution to Occupy. (Reinvigorated faith in the democratic process, and exhausted whatever was left, pun intended)

      Like BLM is the solution for the blacks. (Literally no change, but massive merchandising opportunities? Win win.)

      Not for nothing, but I observed a marked difference in policing behavior, to everyone’s benefit, after a certain incident in Texas where some crazy got blown up by a robot. They became less actively confrontational, perhaps more professional where I am.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps the survivors of Occupy will start growing oppositional cultures of rejection. The New Green BetterCulture against the Coaly Roller DeathCulture.

        Perhaps some of them will create a discipline of CounterEconomics and figure out how to design and deploy approaches and methods of CounterMoney and AntiGrowth Survivalism and such.

        Occupy your mind.
        Occupy your culture.
        Occupy your food.

  10. Nikkikat

    Well, I never thought he was a messiah, I thought he was talking about things that needed to be talked about, as no one ever bothered. People have the power and I would never think anyone was going to save us. But I am a radical. I always felt the same about all this women’s rights nonsense. I have agency, I demand respect by my behavior. I demand dignity as a person. So I take that for myself. I don’t go begging for rights, I already have them.

  11. David in Santa Cruz

    Sanders serves us well to point out the hypocrisy of the Democrats. They were never going to allow him to have real power. At least he has a platform.

    It is the Democrats who must bear ultimate responsibility for the return of forced child-bearing. It is the “deplorable “ young and poor who will be enslaved by state-sanctioned forced child-bearing, the antithesis of freedom or equality.

  12. Alice X

    The Senate, by its very design is not democratic, presently the 50 Ds are from States with 40 million more residents than the 50 Rs. The filibuster does not help this imbalance, except perhaps for the Ds when they are out of power. But presently IMHO it should be eliminated.

  13. Anon

    Like so many Red Herrings… I swear they didn’t make Roe law, so they would have a football to toss around in moments of massive social upheaval. Suddenly the people have a reason to vote blue again. So the choice becomes global warfare, or losing bodily autonomy, and we know what the hesitant liberal will choose. We must defend the right to kill fetuses; especially important, given the sweltering prospects for the future!

    Aside: Perhaps Vicky Nuland is actually working to save the planet. I think at this point, we can all agree that in order for us to survive, our economies as they currently exist will have to be pared down significantly (an understatement). If the goal is to destroy demand/consumption (a morbid task), with nary a whimper from the populace; they are all doing fantastic work.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      You are correct about the DemParty’s motive. They thought they would have decades of raising money and elections by waving the bloody coathanger, and that the Reps would join them by waving the bloody fetus in return. But the Reps were taken over by Sharia Law Christians who really mean it.

      So probortion Americans can figure out how to really mean it in return at least in some states, or they can resign themselves to living under Gilead Republican Party rule.

      1. Anon

        I’m going to put ‘I SURVIVED DONALD TRUMP’ on a bumper sticker……….. That said, America is going to need its (genuinely) conservative streak in the years to come. The Gilead is upon us, and it cares not for politics; though, those keen to its motion will ride the wave. Dramatic? Perhaps…

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