As I mentioned yesterday, we’re putting together a “Roe and Reform” list to find out where senators stand on passing a Roe law in January 2023 if Democrats hold the House and add two Senate seats. The key question is: do you clearly state your support for a Roe law and suspending the filibuster rules to give that law an up or down majority vote? For the purposes of this exercise we don’t care whether you want to “abolish” the filibuster or “reform” it or ditch it for some things and not others. Many of us have strong feelings about the damaging impact of the modern filibuster generally. But here we’re narrowly focused on this one question.
Next, let’s discuss what this list is for.
As we’ve discussed many times before, legislators have an instinctive and often intense desire to keep their options open. You may have heard “the caucus” doesn’t support this or does support that. But there is no “caucus.” There’s a certain number of individual legislators. Where do they individually stand? Without those details there’s a shroud of opacity between constituents and legislators. That’s advantage legislator. There’s no way for you as a voter to communicate with or put pressure on a specific person. There’s no way to really know where things stand or what you might be able to do about it. Everything is fuzzed up. The purpose of this list is to de-fuzz it for you. It’s a scorecard if you will, a list designed for DIY whipping of a legislative vote.
With that in mind, the list will start with roughly 30 senators who have clearly and publicly said that they are ready. There are two flat nos — Manchin and Sinema. There are about a half a dozen senators who simply have not said anything. Or they’ve made statements so vague and meaningless as to amount to nothing.
Now let’s stop right there because this is an instructive category. This has been an active and increasingly intense discussion in Democratic politics for weeks. No less a figure than the President of the United States has said publicly that just two additional Democratic senators are needed to pass the Roe bill next year — assuming the Democrats hold the House. So Biden has in essence committed the 48 to do this. What that means is that not commenting is a choice. It’s a position in itself. It’s not like they don’t know anyone’s asking. It’s not like they haven’t heard this is a question. They’ve made a choice not to say anything. As a constituent you should know that about Chris Coons of Jon Ossoff.
Then there’s about a dozen more who’ve said they strongly support the Roe bill. They’ve also said they support filibuster reform at some point or another. But so far they’ve been unwilling to join the two together. Many in this group will likely do just that in short order. But so far they haven’t. Again, that’s a choice. It’s not like don’t know that anyone’s talking about this. They’re choosing to keep it vague — pointing in one direction but not committing to it. As a constituent you have a right to know that.
Finally, there’s one group that we sort of figured out in the process of putting together the list. And I should say that the “we” here is me and my colleague Kate Riga. She’s spent the last few days doing the legwork to put all this information together in this format. As we were going over the list it became clear that there were two senators in the no comment bucket that were — as they say in Sesame Street — not like the others. These are the problem children of the Democratic caucus: Sen. Warner of Virginia and Sen. Angus King of Maine. Wish it weren’t so but yeah: boo Warner and King! Both have done more than simply not comment or keep things at least a bit vague. They’ve both expressed some continuing resistance to passing a Roe bill with a filibuster carve out. For both Warner and King the filibuster may still turn out to be more important than guaranteeing a national right to a safe and legal abortion.
So, we’ve still got some tweaking to go. But expect the list soon. And if you have questions or pointers or new information please let us know.