The Senator Floats Serenely Above the Fray

I’ve written about this before, but it took on fresh urgency this week after the Supreme Court’s little knife job on abortion rights. Where is Sen. Patrick Leahy? What is he doing about this?

There are a number of things he could be doing. If he’s limited himself to criticism of the court’s ruling, I’m sorry. That’s no better than “hopes and prayers” right now.

For starters, he needs to spearhead the movement to reform the filibuster. At minimum, we should go back to its traditional form: You have to take the floor and stay there, instead of merely filing an email once a day. The abortion rights bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is just empty talk unless there’s serious filibuster reform, because there’s no way the bill would get 10 Republican votes or more.

Leahy is a powerful figure in the Senate, and he has yet to provide a clear statement of his stance on the filibuster. Last time I checked, I got this smidge of boilerplate from pres aide David Carle:

He continues to discuss this with other senators, and there’s a lot of that going on.

Good stuff, that. Especially since the reproductive rights of every woman in a red state are now in the judicial crosshairs. Maybe he could pick up the pace on those discussions?

Leahy is also the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a past committee chair. He’s in a strong position to push for court reform — adding new justices, reining in the high court’s powers, etc. What’s he doing? Anything?

The issue screams for definitive leadership, especially from an insider with a substantial grip on the levers of power. President Biden’s Supreme Court Commission is proceeding at a snail’s pace.

In the roughly four months since its first organizational meeting in May (which lasted only 20 minutes), the commission has met just two other times, listening to panels of elite legal scholars and academics. …The commission has one final meeting on the calendar for November and has already said it won’t be producing any recommendations.

Before this week, that constituted a broken promise. Now, it’s a critical failure to protect women’s rights. And with the 2022 election threatening the Democrats’ tenuous Senate majority, there’s no time to float serenely in the clouds of legal theory.

Especially since the Democrats have already waited far too long.

Joe Biden and top Democrats are scrambling for a strategy to counter Republican restrictions on women’s reproductive rights amid the fallout from a Texas statute that has banned abortions in the state from as early as six weeks into pregnancy – but the options available to the administration are thin.

Scrambling, eh? They shouldn’t be. This situation has been utterly predictable for a long time. As legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick said last night to Rachel Maddow:

This should have been happening from Inauguration Day, where we had clinics in Louisiana, Mississippi, places where women were all but losing access. These are protections that are long, long, long overdue.

How long, long, long? Take your pick. At minimum, Inauguration Day. But really, it’s been inevitable since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened the door to a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

And it really goes back a lot farther, and covers an unconscionable failure of Democratic leaders to take abortion rights seriously. When he took office, President Obama said his first priority was an abortion rights bill. Maddow aired a 1992 clip of then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell saying that such a bill was urgently needed.

Maybe they had good intentions. But in the real world, it amounts to three decades of lip service. So excuse me if I have no sympathy for the Democrats’ “scrambling.”

A lot of people bear responsibility for this situation. One of them is Pat Leahy. He’s been a leading figure in the Senate for all those years. He’s one of the most powerful figures in the Senate today. It’s been what, 48 hours since the Texas decision, and as far as I can tell, Leahy hasn’t said one word about it.

Not that I’d give him much credit for a statement, but it’s literally the least he could do. We should expect a whole lot more. And if he’s not up to it, maybe we need to send our first woman to Congress in 2022.

4 thoughts on “The Senator Floats Serenely Above the Fray

  1. Richard Ley

    Is that the same filibuster that the democrats used hundreds of times when Donald Trump was in office?

    Why would you change the rules now

    Reply

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