U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is calling for the Senate to end the filibuster to make it possible to codify the rights to marriage equality, abortion, contraception, and more.
Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, laid out her case Tuesday while appearing on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. She and Colbert were discussing recent Supreme Court rulings striking down the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision,expanding prayer in public schools, invalidating a New York gun law, and more. And Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has indicated he'd like to strike down rulings on marriage equality, private consensual sex, and contraception.
"Congress, we have the possibility, when we are strengthened by the repeal of the filibuster or a change to a talking filibuster or a standing filibuster, in doing so we can codify Roe ... and all the other cases the Supreme Court indicated that they would threaten," she said. "We can codify same-sex marriage, we can codify the right to contraception, we can codify interracial marriage. We can do it."
"We can only do it if we're not fighting with one hand tied behind our back, let alone two," she continued. "And so I think that right now we just need a fight. And we need to show and demonstrate to the American people that when they vote to give Democrats power, we will use it to the fullest extent possible to defend everybody's civil, economic, and human rights."
She called for President Joe Biden to endorse ending the filibuster.
Her remarks received cheers and applause, and Colbert responded, "Certainly the Republicans use it to the fullest extent of their power at all times."
The filibuster is a Senate rule by which it takes 60 votes to end debate on a bill and move to a vote on the bill itself. While some legislation is exempt from the rule, overall the filibuster has meant much progressive legislation, including a bill that would write abortion rights into federal law, has stalled in the Senate after passing in the U.S. House.
The Senate has a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats (including two independents allied with the Democrats), and Vice President Kamala Harris has the power to break a tie. But two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have resisted ending or weakening the filibuster. Sinema defended the rule in a Washington Post commentary piece last year, saying it forces bipartisan cooperation. "The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles," she wrote.
So far, Biden hasn't supported sweeping changes to the filibuster rule, although he wanted it set aside in certain cases -- for instance, so the Senate could pass voting rights legislation, but that didn't happen. Various media reports indicate he's unlikely to endorse an end to the filibuster or other major moves suggested by progressive Democrats, such as expanding the Supreme Court or limiting the terms of justices. These reforms would protect a wide range of rights, their backers say.
But on abortion rights, "the White House is pursuing a more limited set of policy responses while urging voters and Congress to act," Reuters reports.
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