Congressional Democrats said Tuesday that the leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide will energize their voters in November, predicting a seismic shift in a midterm campaign that had them playing defense amid record-high inflation and accusations of weak leadership from President Biden.
“This changes the contours of the November election,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Washington Times. “It’s happening without us making it happen. It’s a natural reaction. Taking away a constitutional right that’s been around for a half century is historic.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said that “reproductive rights are going to be on the ballot to mobilize countless women as an issue, and rightly.”
Republicans said the Democrats’ predictions of a huge Roe backlash were wishful thinking.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, told The Times that “the vast majority of people” will cast their votes based on the economy, inflation, crime and their sense of security.
“Those will continue to be the dominant issues,” he said.
Former President Donald Trump said it’s too soon to tell what the impact will be on November’s midterm elections.
“I don’t think it is going to have a tremendous effect,” Mr. Trump told Fox News Digital. “I will say, I have seen more passion on the right, at least up until this point. I can’t say what is going to happen now. There is passion both ways.”
Political analysts described the impact on the November vote as more of a mixed bag, energizing Democratic voters in some races and Republican voters in other races.
G. Terry Madonna, a political scholar at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, said the leaked ruling thrust the abortion issue to center stage and it would remain a “big issue with a large number of states.”
Still, he said, pocketbook issues won’t be eclipsed.
“If inflation continues to outpace wage increases, like it is now, I think inflation remains a major issue, particularly when we’re talking about congressional elections,” he said. “Right now, inflation is hurting the Democrats. There are just no two ways.”
Mr. Biden, whose low approval numbers have been hurting his party in the midterm election cycle, pledged to push for legislation based on Roe to spell out the right to an abortion. He warned that if the high court overturns Roe, voters will respond by electing pro-choice lawmakers.
“If the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mr. Biden said. “And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”
Asked whether the draft opinion illustrates the need to put more liberals on the Supreme Court, Mr. Biden lamented that conservative justices on the high court “refuse to acknowledge there’s a right to privacy.” He said the conservative majority could affect laws on marriage and other privacy matters in a “radical” shift in U.S. law.
“There are so many fundamental rights that are affected by that, and I’m not prepared to leave that to the whims of the public at the moment in local areas,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “And the idea we’re letting the states make those decisions … would be a fundamental shift in what we’ve done.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said the draft ruling shows that Republicans are anti-woman and that “this is the time to fight for women and for our country with everything we have.”
“Opponents of Roe want to punish women and take away their rights to make decisions about their own bodies,” she said in a statement. “Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the use of the law against women.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said, “I think when you take away people’s constitutional rights, it’s an energizing moment.”
The Supreme Court confirmed Tuesday that the draft ruling is authentic but noted that it has not been released in its final form and therefore isn’t yet the law of the land. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. ordered an investigation into the unprecedented leak, while hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the court to protest.
The pending decision galvanized elected Democrats on several fronts. They called for legislation to guarantee abortion services nationwide, renewed a likely fruitless push to abolish the filibuster rule in the Senate and warned voters that the draft ruling is the result of electing Republicans at all levels of government.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, pledged to force a vote on legislation enshrining the right to abortion into federal law.
“A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise,” he said. “This is as urgent and real as it gets … and every American is going to see on which side every senator stands.”
Republicans dismissed the chances of such legislation succeeding.
“There’s always going to be someone who is going to attempt to codify Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican. “I don’t think [Mr. Schumer] would have the votes to do so.”
Democrats would need to abolish the 60-vote filibuster rule to pass such legislation this year. Even then, it’s doubtful Democrats could muster the 50 votes needed to pass it.
Mr. Manchin also has been an obstacle to Democrats’ push to end the filibuster rule and push through a liberal agenda. He reiterated his opposition Tuesday to eliminate the filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republican lawmakers preferred to focus their ire on the unprecedented high court leak of a draft opinion, not how it might affect the midterms.
“The story today is the effort by someone on the inside to discredit the institution of the [Supreme Court], which continues a pattern [by Democrats] that we’ve observed over the last couple of years,” Mr. McConnell told reporters. “What’s unique about today is this is the first time we’ve had somebody on the inside try to attack the institution.”
Other Republican lawmakers who focused their reelection campaigns on inflation and other aspects of the economy downplayed how much the abortion issue would weave itself into the 2022 campaign.
“I think it’s speculation,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times. “So I don’t really know how it could, or whether it would.”
Some Republican lawmakers said abortion could sway individual races, depending on the state.
“I think in some states it could have an impact, in other states, it won’t because of the expectation that so many of the states had, that this would be the time to overturn [Roe],” Mr. Rounds said. “Could there be some applications for certain states? It’s entirely possible.”
Democratic governors such as Gavin Newsom in California pledged quickly to assure abortion services regardless of the high court’s ruling. Many Republican state leaders vowed to outlaw abortion just as quickly. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota promised to call a special session of the Legislature “to save lives and guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota.”
A decision to overrule Roe would trigger a 2005 South Dakota law that outlaws abortions in the state. Rep. Jon Hansen, a Republican, said a special session could be used to “bolster” the state’s trigger law, including helping “make sure pregnant mothers are protected from being pressured or coerced across state lines to have their babies’ lives terminated,” The Associated Press reported.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, vowed on Twitter that the state “will not go backward on reproductive rights.” He noted that he signed into law this year the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act codifying a woman’s right to choose into state law.
The Senate, which is evenly split with the vice president casting tiebreaking votes, has several competitive races this cycle where the abortion issue will play differently from state to state, if the draft opinion turns out to be the ultimate opinion of the court, he said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is up for reelection and Mr. Toomey is retiring. Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz said Tuesday that abortion laws “should be left up to the American people and their elected representatives.” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the leading Democratic candidate, has said there should be no limits on abortion.
According to the Pew Research Center, 51% of Pennsylvanians believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.
“In my state, Gov. Wolf is strongly pro-choice. He has made it clear that he would veto any effort by the Republican-controlled legislature,” said Mr. Madonna, who noted that every Republican candidate for state attorney general declared last week during a debate that they were pro-life, while the Democratic candidate supports abortion rights.
• Haris Alic contributed to this report.
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