Manchin: I'm voting no on Schumer's pro-choice bill, which goes far beyond Roe

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

We’re reaching the point with Schumer where I can’t even hypothesize about his motives in forcing a vote on this bill. It’s so glaringly counterproductive that it feels like deliberate self-sabotage.

Why would you hold a vote on controversial legislation which is doomed to fail, which not even your entire caucus supports, and which is bound to put vulnerable incumbents in an awkward position no matter how they vote?

He’s gift-wrapping this midterm talking point for the GOP: “Democrats’ abortion policy is so radical that even some Democrats couldn’t stomach it.”

Well, one Democrat in particular. But you get the point.

The most bizarre part of this gambit is that Schumer does have legislative options that would make this a tough vote for Republicans more so than for his own party. If he put a bill on the floor that would actually codify Roe, he’d have Manchin’s support:

He might have Susan Collins’s and Lisa Murkowski’s support too, which would flip the script and let Democrats argue that they’re the reasonable moderates with bipartisan support in this debate. Failing that, Schumer could have scrapped today’s bill and made the GOP choke on the difficult question of exceptions to abortion restrictions:

As Ed pointed out earlier, the actual bill they’re voting on would shoot way past Roe and effectively legalize abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Nominally it would protect abortion through the first 23 weeks and then allow for it after that whenever a doctor concludes that carrying the child to term “would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.” But “health” is a broad term, notes the WSJ. If you define it expansively to include “general well-being,” virtually any motive to abort would qualify as health-related.

That’s what made Manchin gag, I assume. He’ll support a true Roe codification that legalizes abortion through viability and then permits meaningful restrictions afterward. But there are no meaningful restrictions on the table here, so he’s out. And the left will blame him rather than Schumer for forcing this dopey confrontation.

My best guess at why Schumer is proceeding this way is that he senses his party has a bit of traction in the polls since the leak of Alito’s draft and believes a Senate vote on an expansive bill will be more of a shot in the arm for Democratic voters than Republican ones. New from Morning Consult:

Apart from a blip in early March, Dem enthusiasm is suddenly the highest it’s been all year. Schumer may be calculating that a compliant media will carry forth the left’s spin on today’s vote — “it’s a bill to codify Roe,” never mind that it goes farther than that — and that the bill’s failure will goose pro-choice Americans into paying more attention to the national abortion debate.

Meanwhile, though, Republican challengers will hang this legislation around the necks of every purple-state Democrat in America. Mark Kelly and Maggie Hassan and Catherine Cortez Masto and Raphael Warnock will all have to explain why they supported a bill that would legalize abortion demand throughout all nine months, one that made not only Democrat Joe Manchin but pro-choice Republicans like Susan Collins gag:

Good luck to ’em.

Speaking of the Alito draft, I’m troubled by the fact that there are reportedly no other opinions circulating inside the Court yet on the Dobbs ruling. No concurrences from Roberts, no dissents from the liberals. That doesn’t mean that the decision will go 9-0, obviously; there will be dissents. What’s troubling is the apparent fact that the Court hasn’t been working towards a final slate of opinions over the past three months.

Is that a sign that Alito’s draft might not have a solid majority behind it after all? I.e. the Court hasn’t bothered working on concurrences or dissents yet because it still isn’t sure which side will ultimately end in the majority? Gulp.

There are other possibilities. The most mundane is that they’ve been too busy with other cases and are preparing to turn their full attention to Dobbs soon, in the expectation that it’ll be one of the last cases decided at the end of the term in June. A less mundane one is that there *are* concurrences and dissents — but that they’re not being shared.

Yeah, it could be that trust inside the Court right now is so low that the justices are waiting to share opinions with each other until the last possible moment:

Politico’s story this morning hinted at how much bad blood there is. A lawyer who’s “close to several conservative justices” grumbled about John Roberts switching his vote to uphold ObamaCare in the final days before that decision was rendered, saying, “There is a price to be paid for what he did. Everybody remembers it.” If relationships inside the Court are breaking down, go figure that opinions aren’t being freely shared and workshopped together. Adler notes too that just because Alito’s draft wasn’t published by Politico until recently doesn’t mean the justices haven’t known for some time that there was a leak and have been acting accordingly. If they found out a month ago, say, that Alito’s draft had escaped the building (possibly because Politico had it at the time and was asking the Court for comment), no wonder the justices wouldn’t be circulating any concurrences or dissents freely. Until they know who the leaker is, there’s no guarantee that their opinions won’t leak too.