Schumer promises Senate vote on abortion rights next week, McConnell focuses on leak

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised Tuesday that the Senate would vote next week on a bill to protect abortion rights, promising to put every senator “on record” on the issue, which has been reignited by the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning abortion rights.

“We are focused like a laser on getting this vote shortly and on the 2022 elections,” Schumer said Tuesday afternoon on the steps of the Capitol, surrounded by other Senate Democrats.

Senate Republicans quickly tried to turn the attention away from the draft opinion, which was revealed in a blockbuster scoop by Politico and later confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who would retake control of the Senate should Republicans win back the chamber in November, said the "story" was not the opinion itself but the identity of the person responsible for leaking the opinion.

“What's unique about today is this is the first time we’ve had somebody on the inside try to attack the institution” of the Supreme Court, McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “Fortunately, I think the chief justice has taken that seriously, and we’ll find the leaker.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer bellows into a microphone on a dias, surrounded by a host of senators, with women in the close ranks behind him.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on Tuesday. (Michael A. McCoy/Reuters)

The leaked opinion and a second opinion from Roberts himself, striking down abortion rights but not going as far as other conservatives on the court, seemed all but certain to reshape the 2022 midterm elections, catapulting abortion to the center of a campaign cycle that has previously been dominated by the war in Ukraine, gas prices and inflation, culture wars around race and education, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

This “helps energize an otherwise lifeless Democratic midterm electorate,” said one longtime pollster, Mark Penn, a former top strategist for Hillary Clinton and now director of the Harris Poll at Harvard. Penn conducted a poll on the issue in December and found that Americans supported upholding Roe v. Wade’s access to abortions by 54% to 46%.

“It will also energize some Republicans as well, so the stakes will be even higher and the fundraising even crazier,” Penn told Yahoo News.

Schumer and other top Democrats were emphatic Tuesday that the draft opinion marked a decisive change in the playing field — so much so that Schumer, seemingly unconcerned, batted away a question about Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia Democrat who has stymied much of the Democrats’ plans through the first part of the Biden administration.

With the Senate split 50-50, the vote effort seems all but certain to fail. Democrats are unlikely to find the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate, and talk of eliminating the filibuster outright has gained little traction. Asked what he would do to overcome a filibuster, Schumer ducked the question.

“It’s a different world now. The tectonic plates of our politics, on women’s choice and on rights in general, are changing,” he said. “Every senator now, under the real glare of Roe v. Wade being repealed by the courts, is going to have to show which side they’re on.”