Right-wingers block Equal Rights Amendment vote
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON—Senate right-wingers, all of them Republicans, blocked a debate and vote on the Equal Rights Amendment.

In a vote that got tangled up with abortion rights, Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called for cloture—shutting off debate—on the measure to eliminate the deadline for ratifying the ERA.

On almost party-lines, he failed. Schumer needed 60 votes to head off the filibuster threat against eliminating the deadline to ratify the ERA. He got 51, including Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Forty-six Republicans, plus Schumer, who had to switch sides and vote against his own resolution so he could try again to bring it up in the future, voted against ending debate. The final vote was 51-47 after his switch.

The amendment, first offered a century ago, says “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Congress sent the ERA to the states in 1972, but with a ratification deadline for the 38 states needed to add it to the Constitution. By the time that deadline hit a decade later, 35 had agreed. Three others—the last, #38, was Virginia two years ago—did so afterwards. Too late, foes say.

But what Schumer admitted, and the right-wingers agreed, though they did not say, was the ERA’s fate has become tied up with the bitter battle over the Supreme Court’s 2022 party-line 5-4 ruling removing the federal constitutional right to abortion.

“In 2023, we should move forward to ratify the ERA with all due haste because, if you look at the terrible things happening to women’s rights in this country, it is clear we must act,” Schumer told his colleagues.

“To the horror of hundreds of millions of people, women in America have far fewer rights today than they did even a year ago. The protections of Roe v. Wade are gone, thanks to the MAGA majority on the Supreme Court,” he said, referring to the court’s 1973 pro-abortion ruling.

“Over a dozen states have near-total abortion bans and millions of people have to travel hundreds of miles just to access reproductive care. That is sickening.” Eliminating the deadline, and thus putting the ERA in the Constitution, would move the U.S. “closer to greater justice, greater equality, and a more perfect union.”

Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Murkowski were the sole speakers to discuss the impact of ratifying the ERA. No right-wingers spoke and the only lobby to take a public stand this time was the radical right Heritage Foundation—against it, of course.

Even the National Women’s Party, the original crafter of the ERA and whose headquarters is a block from the Capitol, did not mention the latest ratification push on their website.

The ERA “would establish fundamental protections against discrimination based on sex. Every one of us should agree that such discrimination is completely unacceptable and that every citizen, regardless of sex, should enjoy the same rights under our Constitution, and that is all we are doing here today,” said Murkowski.

That left a coalition headed by Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine, the ERA Coalition and the Feminist Majority to continue the pro-ERA push this time. And in a session on it last year at Smith College, Steinem pointed out another key corporate special interest opposes the ERA: Health insurers.

“Health insurance interests alone stood to lose billions if the ERA forced it to stop charging women more for less coverage, and since that industry was largely state-regulated, it had lobbyists in every state capital,” Steinem said, citing a 2020 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times which she co-wrote with Feminist Majority president Ellie Smeal.

“Money, along with deeply ingrained misogyny and propaganda, is a powerful motivator,” Steinem and Smeal wrote then.

“I would urge our colleagues not to filibuster equality,” Cardin said. His urgings, and those of Steinem, Smeal and Murkowski, went unheeded.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.