Coop Scoop: What on Earth Was Schumer Thinking?
His showdown vote on abortion was ill-timed and poorly thought out
May 12, 2022
By Marc Cooper
In last week’s newsletter I wrote that the Supreme Court draft nuking Roe V. Wade was a political gift from heaven for the Democrats and that they would probably blow the opportunity. After the events in the Senate Wednesday afternoon, the second part of that affirmation seems to be coming true.
What exactly was Chuck Schumer thinking in any case bringing the Women’s Health Protection Act that would codify the right to abortion nationally to a floor vote that he knew he was going to lose? And lose it did. Democrat Joe Manchin crossed over and joined with all 50 Republicans in voting to maintain a GOP filibuster killing the measure. The vote was 51 to 49 against the Democratic bill.
Be advised that if Manchin had voted for it, there were still ten votes missing to break the filibuster.
Well, Schumer and the Democrats do have an answer for this stunt. Yes, they knew they were going to lose but they say they wanted to get everybody on the record so the Democrats could use this against Republicans in campaigning for the mid-terms.
A mistake. Perhaps a very big one. The Wednesday vote outcome was exactly the same with the same Senators when this measure was first put on the floor in February. Nothing changed. Except… millions if not tens of millions… of Americans were not clued into this carom shot strategy in advance by Schumer or by anybody else. And to the untrained eye the vote yesterday comes off as just one more Democratic defeat and will have, with little doubt, a depressing, demobilizing effect on Democratic voters who need the exact opposite at this perilous moment.
That is, of course, if anybody even noticed the vote. If you question the institutionalized myopia of Schumer, remember this vote was held on a weekday afternoon with no live coverage and no dramatic build up. Schumer and other Democratic leaders immediately followed the vote by saying the Democrats would be working full steam to protect reproductive rights.
Yada Yayda. Right.
This is exactly backward, Leader Schumer. The vote should have come AFTER a period of intense grass roots mobilization, AFTER pro-choice forces could build some steam and when there would be some real anticipation, some intense interest in the Senate vote. But the aged Democratic leadership lives in a sealed atmosphere, far far from its grass roots supporters. And at this juncture in history, who knows how many Democratic electeds have any skill, let alone any interest, in leveraging the power of an organized citizenry. So, we will see in the coming days if today’s premature and rather obscure vote will dampen any ground level initiatives to fight the abortion ban. It certainly did nothing to encourage them.
The Democratic Leadership is also avoiding any further discussion of the filibuster because there are at least two, if not more, of their own species who continue to cling to it. So we have the absurd, intellectually insulting paradox that the radical make up of SCOTUS owes to the three Trump-appointed Christian zealots being confirmed because McConnell had blown up the filibuster for their votes but we can’t push back against the court because Democrats won’t nuke it.
"Republicans in Congress — not one of whom voted for this bill — have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives," Biden said in a statement after the vote. "To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House. If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law."
Not exactly, pal. Enough Democrats are also standing in the way. And the easiest and fastest way out of this nightmare is to get 50 Democrats plus Harris to vote to exclude the filibuster from this issue and then have the same 51 votes pass the law codifying abortion. It’s that simple. Meaning it’s that difficult, given the loathsome politics of the Democratic renegades. And who in this world really believes that in this political atmosphere, there are magically going to be 60 pro-choice Senators on the floor in January? Biden wants you to forget about the filibuster and wants you to proceed on his mythical route to a supermajority next year that ain’t gonna exist.
Hats off, however, to the one hundred House members who politely called bullshit on the Democratic tactic. It’s hardly a coincidence that just a hours after vote, the progressive House members published an open letter to Joe Biden calling on fellow Democrats to scrap the filibuster as it is an impediment to progress on all core issues.
“In today’s hyper-partisan climate, there is simply no avenue for bold legislation that meets the needs of everyday Americans without ending the filibuster,” the representatives wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York). “We must end the gridlock that has become common practice in Washington and govern boldly and transformatively to improve the lives of millions of people, children, and families all across the country.”
There’s one curious twist to today’s Senate move. Two Republican Senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are both pro-choice and there was some anticipation that they might have voted with the Democrats today. Both Senators have their own version of the bill that codifies Roe V. Wade while the Democratic version goes far beyond Roe in preventing any restrictions of any sort.
Reporting after the vote suggests that Democrats had considered monkeying with their own bill, shaving off some of the more controversial aspects of it, in order to win the votes of these two Republicans and perhaps a few others. That reporting also says Democrats consciously decided to not make an overture to the Republicans because Schumer’s cockamamie strategy was not compatible with even a losing vote being bi-partisan, because it would too complicate partisan campaigning.
The Democratic version of the bill, by the way, included some “poison pill” language folded into it that would pretty much guarantee Republican rejection. Today’s version omitted the words “women” and “woman” and instead used the Woke term “pregnant person.” And up until a few days ago, the bill was loaded down with the terms “women, transgender women and gestating people.”
I am curious if Democrats are gonna continue to fuck around like this as we are being fed into some Republican abattoir? As I also said last week, I don’t count on these ancient party leaders to save us but I would prefer they don’t take us down with them.
We are six months away from what might be the first step in ushering in an authoritarian regime in the U.S. and the Democrats are going to have to make some serious efforts to run a campaign based on rights and freedom, isolating the GOP as an anti-democratic threat and eschewing any alienating, side show race-essentialist gestures that have become so widespread and so damaging over the last few years. I am not throwing in the towel…yet. But we are off to a bad start. +
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