As House Democrats vote to preserve privacy rights most Americans never imagined would be on the chopping block, Senate Republicans twisted themselves in knots on whether Americans really deserve access to contraception or the right to marry the person they love.
Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, for instance, said she was against codifying birth control protections into federal law before talking herself into supporting it and then once again backing away.
"I don't know that we need to codify things like that. Shouldn't that be states and local jurisdictions, maybe?" Ernst told NBC News, adding, "I would just have to see how it's worded. But, no, I think women should have access to contraception. But it depends on the definition of contraception."
Roger—thanks for clarification, senator.
Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma lashed out at Democrats for making it perfectly clear that Republicans want to strip away basic privacy rights surrounding the most intimate details of people’s lives.
Democrats, he said, are trying to “ramp everybody up leading up to the election to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, Republicans are coming after you’ kind of theme that they seem to be running right now.” Of course, instead of clutching those pearls, Republicans could just join Democrats in codifying the rights to remove any doubt in voters’ minds of what they stand for.
Democratic Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, running in one of the toughest districts in the country after redistricting, expressed disgust that contraception access is even up for debate.
“I can’t even believe that I have to be talking about this issue, quite honestly," Wild said, noting that her constituents are "outraged" by the Supreme Court's evisceration of their rights.
On MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York offered a messaging extravaganza on the two House bills known as the Respect for Marriage Act (which protects both interracial and same-sex marriage rights) and the Right to Contraception Act.
Maloney, chair of House Democratic campaign arm, explained that all the privacy rights surrounding abortion, contraception, marriage equality, and more have been "rooted in a 50-year interpretation of the due process clause" of the Constitution that the Supreme Court rejected in its Dobbs decision. The votes this week, he said, would give congressional lawmakers a chance to restore those rights.
"Are we going to discriminate against people who want to be with the person they love," posited Maloney, "whether it's a person of a different race or the same sex?"
"I for one am very interested to see which Republicans will still stand in that doorway and prevent us from coming together around a basic issue like equality of our love and of our marriages," Maloney said of the vote that commenced late Tuesday night. (In fact, 47 Republicans ultimately joined Democrats to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, 267-157.)
Maloney said the same questions apply to contraception and abortion. Should politicians in Washington or the state government decide things like whether anyone can get an abortion?
"We think women should be making those decisions," Maloney explained. "We think Americans who love each other can get married and be treated equality, and the fact that we're even talking about it is a measure of the radical difference between the dark vision the MAGA Republican movement has for our country and the country so many of us have been trying to build for so long."
As our own Joan McCarter pointed out, Senate Democrats should absolutely carve out time to vote on these critical bills. When Sen. Ernst, who isn't even up for reelection this year, waffles three times on contraception rights in the course of a 15-second answer, it’s worth getting Republicans on record. And if Democrats are able to successfully usher through protections for these critical rights, so much the better.