Has Chuck Schumer finally learned math? Or has his Senate Democratic caucus finally learned that Schumer’s terrible at his job? The Washington Post reports that Schumer et al won’t push a vote to change or end the legislative filibuster, even while trying to force a radical abortion bill through the upper chamber.
Apparently Senate Dems have finally reached their limit on stupid and futile gestures:
And that has led to discussions about what Democrats should do next to show their base of voters they will fight to preserve abortion rights. Not on that list? Holding a vote to get rid of the filibuster or to carve out an exception to the rule for abortion legislation.
Relatively few Democratic senators are looking to go down that path again after the party’s attempt to pass a similar carve out for voting rights in January came up short, which highlighted the party’s inability to stay unified and deliver on a major issue for its voters while causing tensions within the conference. …
Democrats’ attempt to get rid of the filibuster to pass voting rights protections in January failed to secure the 50 votes necessary after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against the measure. Manchin and Sinema have made clear they oppose changing the rules to codify Roe, too.
Not only did the January push fail, it was politically painful for Democrats. The vote drove home Democrats’ limited ability to pass their agenda, pitted Democratic senators against each other and drew attention to the party’s internal divisions rather than Republicans’ opposition to voting rights legislation.
Instead, the Post reports, Democrats will avoid the same outcome and hope to focus voters on Republican “extremism” instead. Joe Biden tried that tack last week when he called MAGA the “most extreme” group in modern American history … and then began to reminisce about the good ol’ days of eating lunch with segregationists in an era where former Klansman Robert Byrd ruled the Senate. For Democrats.
I … don’t think these are the Democrats who can claim to oppose “extremism.” Just sayin’.
One can understand why Senate Democrats don’t want to put on another demonstration of their impotence, though, especially twice in the same election year. But if they want to make an “extremism” argument, pushing the most radical abortion bill possible this close to when vulnerable caucus members have to go before voters in decidedly un-radical states looks almost as stupid and futile as another charge against the filibuster.
NBC News reports that even some Senate Democrats wonder what Schumer’s thinking in pushing this now. The “doomed” abortion bill will “divide the party,” says their First Read column today:
Senate Democrats are once again headed for a show vote — this time on abortion — that risks dividing their party, depressing their base, and looks all but certain to be defeated.
“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer officially set into motion the procedure [Monday] afternoon to have a key procedural vote on the Democratic bill to provide federal protections for abortion rights on Wednesday. The vote’s timing is still TBD, but is expected in the afternoon on Wednesday, and is still expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass,” NBC’s Frank Thorp and Julie Tsirkin report. …
Of course, Democrats don’t have good options here after the leaked draft opinion raised the likelihood of a decision that axes Roe vs. Wade. And they don’t want to let the decision come this summer without taking some action.
But this comes after other show votes Democrats have taken — on the minimum wage and voting rights — that have divided their party, depressed their base and failed in the 50-50 Senate.
And it looks like history is going to repeat itself.
They actually did have better options. Schumer could have adopted the War Games strategy and realize that the best decision is just not to play, at least not in the moment. Whatever the Supreme Court does, a policy response could have come after the midterms. Alternately, Schumer could have wrapped his arms around the proposal from Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins to codify both Roe and Casey — and their limitations — into statute. Instead, Schumer went almost the full Peter Singer and made Democrats’ abortion push as radical as it could possibly get.
And what will happen? NBC News likely has this right; vulnerable Senate Democrats will be forced to peel off to protect themselves from being painted as radical abortion absolutists in already tough elections. Progressives will then attack them for not being sufficiently radical, not just dividing the party but undermining their GOTV efforts as internecine warfare heats up.
And for what? A performative stunt that Schumer knows has zero chance of passage, and for which Schumer himself won’t go to the mattresses to pass. It’s yet another example of Schumer’s disastrous leadership skills and instincts, which along with Biden’s own incompetencies will doom Democrats this cycle even without this particular fight.
Addendum: Tim Miller is similarly unimpressed with Schumer’s leadership, via our headlines:
What does Chuck Schumer do every day? How is he filling the hours? He has one job, literally! I mean, maybe he’s also trying to engineer a deal on the Electoral Count Act—although there’s scant evidence of movement on that front. And the Senate has various confirmations to push through. But besides that, nothing else matters. Vote counting, reconciliation, and appointments. That’s the to-do list.
Everything that the Senate Democrats are doing that is not on that list is just kayfaybe—which Schumer is also not very good at, by the by. Take the Senate’s plans for tomorrow. To the delight of Republican senators, Schumer plans to make Democratic senators vote on abortion legislation that is both unpopular—it would legalize abortions through all nine months of pregancy, a position most Americans disapprove of—and hopeless, since it does not have the votes to pass.
Here’s a tip: If you are going to force everyone to take a meaningless messaging vote for public-relations purposes, consider choosing a bill that hurts the other party’s popularity, not your own!
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