Message once only embraced by progressives is now front and centre
The Democratic congressman running in one of the most significant races of the 2022 election cycle had a message for the US Senate after the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday: The filibuster must bend, or break.
Tim Ryan, a centrist from Ohio running to replace retiring Republican Sen Rob Portman, was one of a few Democratic members of Congress to walk down to the Court on Friday after the news of Roe’s overturn was made public, and showed none of the hesitance towards changes to Senate rules that some centre-leaning pols including Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have shown even in the face of the most dramatic rollback of rights in the US in decades.
Mr Ryan gaggled with reporters outside of the court and expressed hope that the decision on abortion rights would ignite “the beginning of a new era of activism among people in the country”, echoing calls of fellow Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nearby who urged abortion rights supporters to “fill the streets”.
“I think the Senate needs to reform the filibuster to pass [abortion rights into law],” he said. “To me, it’s imperative to us to get that done, and that means reforming the filibuster.”
Calls to do just that are likely to grow significantly after Friday’s decision, which will put new onus on Democrats at the national level to prove that they have a strategy for protecting against Republican state-led efforts to severely restrict or outright ban the practice.
The filibuster allows senators to insist on a threshold of 60 out of 100 votes for legislation to proceed, an often unreachably high bar in a chamber currently divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
Even before this week’s decision, centrist candidates like Conor Lamb (who lost to a progressive in his primary) in Pennsylvania were feeling the heat from Democratic voters unsatisfied with the resistance from Sens Sinema and Manchin to reform of the filibuster in any regard, especially following the failure to pass voting rights legislation earlier this year. Following Friday’s decision, those vows from Democratic Senate candidates are likely to become more frequent and criticism of the two Democratic holdouts in the upper chamber will only increase.
Attacking what he called a “very activist” Supreme Court, with its newly-cemented conservative majority, Mr Ryan warned that same-sex marriage rights, contraceptive rights, and other rights long thought to be guaranteed by the Court were set to be on the chopping block next.
“Look very closely at what Justice [Clarence] Thomas wrote,” Mr Ryan said. “They wanna go after birth control next, they wanna go after same-sex marriage next.”
“You’ve got judges on the highest court in the land, you have politicians running for key offices in key states who are against birth control. This is insanity. This has got to stop,” he said.
The Ohio congressman is set to face Donald Trump-endorsed JD Vance in November following their respective victories in their party primary elections; Mr Vance, author of Hillbilly Ellegy, opposes exceptions to abortions in the case of rape or incest.
Mr Ryan spared no criticism of Mr Vance on Friday as he spoke to reporters about what he would tell women in his home state about the fight going forward.
“Just look at his record … he said ‘rape is inconvenient’. He’s for zero exceptions, rape, incest, nothing,” Mr Ryan warned. “He’s the extreme of the extreme.”