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Lawmakers Mull Responses Following the Fall of Roe
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Lawmakers Mull Responses Following the Fall of Roe

Plus: Mark Meadows’ former aide to testify in surprise January 6 hearing today.

Good morning. Both chambers of Congress are out this week, so we’ll keep this edition to the point.

With Dobbs Ruling, House Republicans Eye New Abortion Limits

If Republicans take the House in November, members will rally around at least one agenda item with renewed intensity: new federal restrictions on abortions.

After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last week, lawmakers are considering new avenues to limit abortions. Instead of a 20-week abortion ban that Republicans have passed in the House in prior years, the party could advance a stricter 15-week abortion ban, GOP Rep. Chris Smith said last week. Given the dynamics—a Democratic president still in office and a higher threshold for passing most bills in the Senate—these bills are likely to amount to messaging items without the chance of becoming law, for now.

From CNN’s story:

“We’re working on something along those lines,” Smith said, when asked by CNN about a nationwide abortion ban. “I have the ‘Pain Capable’ at 20 weeks. We’re going to lower it to 15. There are all kinds of ideas there.”

“But we don’t have at this point the ability to overcome a veto or a filibuster,” he added.

His effort has attracted some high-profile supporters in the conference. McCarthy told CNN he backs legislation to codify a 15-week ban on abortion, saying: “I’d support that.”

Republicans are also likely to bring up a bill they have held votes on in recent years to require medical care for any infants who survive abortion attempts.

Most meaningful action will occur in state legislatures. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged as much on Monday at an event in Kentucky. 

“Neither side of this issue has come anywhere close to having 60 votes,” he said of the Senate’s threshold to pass most bills.

Democrats Consider Responses to Dobbs Decision

Without support to end the Senate filibuster, congressional Democrats are currently unable to substantively respond to the Supreme Court’s decision.

Democratic leaders have broadly pushed for Americans to vote more Democratic senators into office to allow a change to the Senate rules, which could later lead to laws codifying abortion rights. In the current 50-50 Senate, Democrats are missing support within their own party to make that rules change, including from moderate Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. 

Manchin’s position on the importance of the filibuster as a moderating force remained unchanged after a draft opinion of the abortion decision leaked to Politico earlier this year. He said at the time that the filibuster is “the only protection we have of democracy right now.”

After Friday’s ruling, Manchin said he would support legislation to codify the abortion rights Roe v. Wade had protected—even though he said he personally holds anti-abortion views. “I am hopeful Democrats and Republicans will come together to put forward a piece of legislation that would do just that,” Manchin said.

Action to codify Roe is extremely unlikely this Congress. Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to agree for such a bill to pass.

Just two Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—have shown interest in codifying Roe, but they have clashed with Democrats on the scope of such a bill and want stronger religious conscience protections included. Read more on that here.

New Urgency for Monthly Payments to Parents and Paid Leave Options?

A couple weeks ago, we wrote to you about Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s reintroduced plan to support parents with monthly payments.

With Friday’s Supreme Court decision and only a few months before Republicans look sure to take the House (likely giving a bill such as this a smaller chance to become law), senators may feel more urgency to come to an agreement on such a plan in the coming months. It could prove difficult during an election year, though, and as lawmakers are deeply divided over abortion policies. 

Romney’s plan would send parents up to $350 per month for each child, similar to a program Democrats created for about six months in 2021 but expired at the end of the year. Romney’s version includes payments four months before a child is due to be born, offering support for soon-to-be parents who may face challenges affording supplies for a new baby.

For more background, Patrick T. Brown wrote a detailed piece for The Dispatch laying out how the plan would work.

Senators may also debate various paid leave proposals. Romney and Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio reintroduced a bill last year to offer three months of paid leave to mothers after giving birth. It would be financed by pushing back participants’ Social Security benefit eligibility for that amount of time, or by reducing their monthly retirement benefits (the amount depending on how much time they used for the paid leave program) for the first five years of retirement.

Last year, Democrats attempted to approve a more sweeping paid leave program for both new parents and people taking care of elderly family members in a spending package that would not have been subject to the Senate filibuster, meaning it would have needed only 50 votes to pass. The entire package fell apart after Manchin announced his opposition to it.

On the Floor

Nothing. Both chambers are out this week.

What We’re Watching Today

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol will meet for a hearing this afternoon.

The panel had been scheduled to take two weeks off as Congress is on recess, but members announced the last-minute hearing on Monday, pointing to new evidence they plan to share.

It’s not clear what the hearing will focus on, but Cassidy Hutchinson, formerly a top aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is slated to testify.

Hutchinson witnessed conversations between members of Congress and White House officials about overturning the results of the presidential election. She also provided testimony in earlier depositions about several members of Congress seeking pardons for potential crimes.

Read this for more background on Hutchinson.

Key Hearings

Members of the House Homeland Security Committee are holding a field hearing in Michigan this morning on combating ransomware. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Michigan state government are slated to testify. Information and livestream here.

A House Financial Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on housing availability this afternoon. Information and livestream here.

The full House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on inequality and homeownership on Wednesday afternoon. Information and livestream here.

Members of the House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on privacy in the age of biometrics. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.