Legislative odds still favor GOP in abortion battles: The Note

The Biden White House is up against the limits of what it can do.

May 6, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The political earthquake didn't quite shake everything up.

The fallout of this week's jaw-dropping Supreme Court leak has Democrats enraged and newly motivated. It also has them confronting the same stubborn legislative and mathematical realities that have defined their last year-plus in control of Washington.

Abortion opponents have largely taken the expected good news from the high court as a call for further action.

Louisiana is advancing a bill that would allow prosecutors to treat abortions as homicides. Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said she would immediately call for a special legislative session to explore new protections for "every unborn child" if Roe v. Wade is overturned -- even though South Dakota already has a "trigger law" that would outlaw abortion as soon as the Supreme Court allows it.

Democratic-led states including Connecticut, New York and California are taking steps to protect abortion rights and prepare for an influx of out-of-state abortion seekers. Democrats have polling on their side in Americans supporting the concept of abortion being available to women, as this week's ABC News/Washington Post survey confirmed.

But some states with Democratic governors are essentially paralyzed by GOP-controlled legislatures. Democrats in Wisconsin, up to and including Gov. Tony Evers, will have to contend with an 1849 state law criminalizing abortions in almost all circumstances; the law has been unenforceable since Roe but has not been repealed.

At the federal level, the Biden White House is coming up against the limits of what it can do if the legal landscape is upended, as now seems exceedingly likely.

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attends a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 05, 2022.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attends a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 05, 2022.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The main congressional vehicle to codify Roe in federal law will come up for an initial vote in the Senate next Wednesday, but while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling it one of the most important votes "of this century," it stands no realistic chance of getting 60 votes.

The situation leaves some Democrats -- particularly progressives who have long agitated for sweeping Supreme Court reform -- with a familiar feeling. The debate is roughly tracking the path taken on voting rights since last January -- action in Republican-led states met with virtually no action in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democrats may yet see a boost in voter engagement because of the forthcoming court news, though there were few signs of the issue impacting voting in the two red-tinged states that had primary voting this week, Ohio and Indiana.

But before they get there, Democrats appear likely to face still more losses on an issue vital to so many of their voters.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The Biden administration, which has furnished a host of historic firsts, is adding another with Karine Jean-Pierre set to take the helm as White House press secretary.

Jean-Pierre will be both the first Black woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the press secretary role when she replaces outgoing Jen Psaki.

Jean-Pierre, who now serves as deputy, is an alum of former President Obama's 2008 campaign and his administration, and the Thursday announcement came almost 10 years to the day of then-Vice President Biden's May 6 NBC interview when he revealed his support for same-sex marriage.

PHOTO: Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a press briefing in Washington, May 5, 2022.
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House after it was announced White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would step down from her role next week and be replaced by Jean-Pierre in Washington, May 5, 2022.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Psaki called the historic nature of the announcement "amazing" during Thursday's press briefing.

"Representation matters, and she will give a voice to so many and allow and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard and dream big, and that matters," said Psaki. "And we should celebrate that."

Jean-Pierre's job will be no cakewalk. She will take to the podium as the administration confronts numerous challenges: soaring inflation, an impending SCOTUS decision on abortion, a seemingly endless war in Ukraine, an ongoing pandemic and coming elections that could hamper the fate of the rest of the administration's agenda.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Ohio's primary season is over, but the ongoing political fallout of former President Donald Trump's influence across the state is already brewing ahead of November in the 9th Congressional District.

Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur went from representing a district that had a +16 partisan lean in favor of Democrats to a district that is now +6 for Republicans after redistricting took effect, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. The new partisan framing of the district was highlighted earlier this week when Republican J.R. Majewski won his party's primary.

PHOTO: Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio stands on the House steps at the Capitol , April 28, 2022.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio stands on the House steps at the Capitol , April 28, 2022.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Majewski -- who gained notoriety for painting a mural of Trump's face on his front yard -- attended the Jan. 6 rally preceding the insurrection and has been adjacent to QAnon conspiracies. His run against Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in the House, will once again spotlight the former president's false claims of 2020 election fraud that have emerged as a focus for some 2022 Republican candidates.

In a 2021 interview with the Toledo Blade, Majewski cast unfounded doubt on 2020 election administration, despite acknowledging that he could not "say that I have factual evidence that Joe Biden didn't beat President Trump in a fair election."

Kaptur now faces the prospect of making her pitch to voters in the northwestern part of the state where she has never held office, while the campaign arm of the House Democrats pounces on the prospect of Majewski being too extreme for his own party. In an email, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee claimed their counterparts are "avoiding comment on Majewski" despite having congratulated other winning Ohio Republicans.

"The NRCC is now stuck with a toxic and extreme nominee who is out of touch with what's important to voters in Northwest Ohio," said DCCC spokesperson Abel Iraola.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

85. Between 85% and 90% of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, according to the vast majority of polls. But as FiveThirtyEight's Jean Yi and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux write, just because the majority of Americans think abortion should be legal doesn't mean their views aren't still contradictory. Moreover, at the end of the day, it's an issue many Americans just don't want to think about. Read more from Jean and Amelia about where Americans stand on abortion.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with the rise of the anti-abortion movement and their reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. ABC's Devin Dwyer leads us off. Then, ABC's Matt Seyler discusses reports that U.S. intelligence is helping Ukraine kill Russian generals. And, ABC's Mary Bruce talks about a historic shake-up in the White House communications office. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • President Joe Biden heads to Ohio, where he meets with manufacturing leaders in Hamilton at 3 p.m. before delivering remarks calling on Congress to pass legislation like the Bipartisan Innovation Act at 3:45 p.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki gaggles aboard Air Force One en route Hebron, Kentucky, departing at 11 a.m.
  • ABC's "This Week": Anchor Martha Raddatz goes one-on-one with Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju and Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. Roundtable: ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott, Democracy for America CEO Yvette Simpson, ABC News Contributor Sarah Isgur, and New York Times Political Correspondent and This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future Co-Author Alex Burns.
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