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The Senate is expected to vote on a bill codifying Roe v. Wade into law


Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would, if it passed, make abortion protections part of federal law rather than relying on the Supreme Court. Here's Patty Murray, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership.


PATTY MURRAY: When we vote on this bill, every single senator is going to have to go on the record as to whether they want to take their constituents' rights away.

INSKEEP: Of course, everyone's waiting for a Supreme Court ruling on abortion. But even before the roll call, it's known this vote will fail because Democrats don't have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. And there's even a question about whether they will have unanimous support within their own party. I spoke earlier today with NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: That is, at this moment, still unclear. And as is often the case, we are watching Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Now, he has voted against abortion protections in the past, but he has avoided giving reporters any answer on this specific bill. Now, the legislation they're voting on would guarantee the right of women to obtain abortions and for providers to provide them without, as the bill calls them, medically unnecessary restrictions. You know, a version of this bill did fail in February. And, you know, Democrats say they're trying again because they say this is different now. It is a live issue. This is not a theoretical question, as a result of that draft opinion.

Now, Manchin voted against the version of the bill that was on the floor in February. And there had been some hope among Democrats that they could pressure two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, to vote for this bill because Collins and Murkowski have supported abortion rights in the past. But that seems kind of unlikely at this point. You know, Collins and Murkowski have their own bill, and that does include some restrictions that Democrats reject.

INSKEEP: On the other side, would Republicans really pursue an abortion ban if they regained control of Congress?

SNELL: Well, you know, it kind of depends on who you ask. If you ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he says that Republicans do not support getting rid of a filibuster, and no issue is exempt from that. Though, you know, he never explicitly said that they would never get rid of the filibuster to pass an abortion ban.


MITCH MCCONNELL: I think the sentiment in my conference is for this issue to be dealt with at the state level if we are, in fact, confronted with a final Supreme Court decision that throws this issue back into democratic processes.

SNELL: Now, that's a long way of - from saying that he would make that decision. He's basically saying that he wants the states to decide. He's also saying that both parties have held abortion votes in the past, and both parties have failed to get 60 votes when they've tried. But this is right now. Even if Republicans win control in November, President Biden would still be the president. And there's virtually no chance that Republicans would have enough votes to overcome a veto. So it's kind of a question that will be up for debate for many years to come.

INSKEEP: OK. Congressional stalemate, as on many, many issues, as a matter of fact. So what do Democrats, the people in control for the moment, plan to do next?

SNELL: There really isn't much that they can do. You know, some are promising a vote, and they want to keep voting and voting and voting to keep up the pressure. But, you know, that's not really a tactic meant to change the votes inside of Congress. It's more of a defensive strategy and an attempt to show voters that Democrats are trying on an issue that's very important to voters. And it's not clear that voters actually think that's useful. Virtually every Senate Democrat I've spoken to - and that's dozens in the past week - says that they just need more Democrats in the Senate. So they plan on campaigning on it. But like you said, this is a tale Democrats are all too used to right now - police reform, voting rights, climate change. You know, all of these things are things that voters want and Democrats can't pass.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell, thanks as always.

SNELL: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.