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Only One Path on Codifying Roe

Pro-life and pro-choice activists clash as they gather at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2022. - The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked dr... Pro-life and pro-choice activists clash as they gather at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2022. - The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked draft of a majority opinion that would shred nearly 50 years of constitutional protections. The draft, obtained by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and has been circulated inside the conservative-dominated court, the news outlet reported. Politico stressed that the document it obtained is a draft and opinions could change. The court is expected to issue a decision by June. The draft opinion calls the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision "egregiously wrong from the start." (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 6, 2022 8:59 a.m.

Last night, Politico Nightly had a somewhat ungenerous read on Democratic efforts to codify Roe. Congress Editor Elana Schor noted that Democrats are resisting efforts to join a bipartisan effort that is backed by pro-choice Senators Collins and Murkowski. That seems odd. Why wouldn’t they add those votes? The Collins and Murkowski option wouldn’t provide as fulsome protections for abortion access. But it would like get more than 50 votes rather than a vote in the high 40s. It makes the Democrats sound more interested in purity than results. So why not do that? Sen Mazie Hirono explains: since getting to 50 votes actually has no practical impact on passing the law, why not vote on a law you can enthusiastically get behind rather than a more watered down one?

That’s a pretty good logic.

But this logic illustrates the broader dead end the Democrats are walking into. These votes are often called “symbolic” votes. But that’s not an accurate description. Votes like these are test votes to frame electoral choices. You either force the opposition to make unpopular votes with the intention of campaigning on those votes in an election or — more directly — you use the votes to frame a clear electoral choice. So you tell voters, this is what is at stake in this election. Elect us and we will do this thing. As I’ve argued, in this case that means something like, give us two more Democratic senators and the House and we will codify Roe on the first day of the new Congress.

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