Democrats’ contraception play to put Republicans on record

Inflatable contraceptive implant Intra Uterine Device (IUD) on Capitol Hill (REUTERS)
Inflatable contraceptive implant Intra Uterine Device (IUD) on Capitol Hill (REUTERS)

Senate Democrats staged a vote on Wednesday to protect access to contraception that Republicans voted to block.

The legislation never really had any chance of passing. While Democrats in the House passed it last Congress under a Democratic majority, House Speaker Mike Johnson is unlikely to bring it to a vote given his thin majority.

The filibuster--the 60-vote threshold in the Senate required to pass legislation--still exists and only two Republicans, Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, voted for the legislation.

Newly-minted independent Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted to kill abortion rights legislation in 2022, told The Independent he was supporting the legislation “because I have about six granddaughters. That says it all.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer knew this when he held the vote. Rather, the vote had two purposes: to show that Democrats care about access to contraception while also reminding people that Republicans voted for the Supreme Court justices who killed Roe v Wade.

“People need to know what's on the ballot,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told The Independent. “And every Republican is now going to be on record. That's how it should be.”

Indeed, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is running for re-election as Democrats seek to hold onto their 51-seat majority, cited the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion in Dobbs v Jackson that the court “should reconsider” Griswold v Connecticut, which ruled that states had no right to ban contraception.

“Certainly when something is supported by 80 percent of the American public, you would hope that just that alone would lead to consideration of it,” she said. Baldwin told The Independent she would absolutely be making it an issue in her re-election campaign.

“Restoring reproductive freedom you better believe it,” she said.

Democrats learned in 2022, after the Dobbs case, that running on abortion rights is a winning issue. In Nevada, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto campaigned heavily on abortion rights and narrowly won re-election despite the fact the Silver State elected a Republican governor. But she told The Independent that “Republicans and Donald Trump” continue to want to take away women’s reproductive rights.

Despite this, Democrats don’t have many chances at flipping senate seats this go around. Their best chances, which are remote at best, are in Texas and Florida.

In April, Florida’s supreme court allowed for the state’s six-week ban to go into effect but also said that voters would have a chance to vote on an amendment to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

Florida’s Senator Rick Scott, who is up for re-election and is one of the staunchest Trump allies in the Senate, raged against the vote as well.

“I think it's important from our standpoint, to as Republicans to have a message and explain why we support contraception, we support IVF,” he told The Independent, even though he voted to block the bill. He Scott said Schumer put it on the floor for political reasons and he’s not entirely wrong.

Similarly, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, an ardent opponent of abortion rights, told The Independent there was no reason to have the vote.

“No insurance companies are banning it. No states are banning it. I don't hear any Republicans up here banning it, so it's a messaging piece,” he said.

At the same time, more than half of Republicans in the House, including Johnson, have signed on to support the Life Begins at Conception Act, which says that an embryo can be considered a life “at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization,” which Democrats warn could put in vitro fertilization and contraception at risk.

Similarly, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a potential candidate for president in 2028, vetoed legislation to ensure access to contraception, while Louisiana criminalized commonly used abortion drugs last month.

So yes, the legislation is essentially a messaging vote, Republicans are furious because they know what message their vote sends to voters and that they will hear it loud and clear.