WASHINGTON — Democrats seem certain to block Republican legislation banning most late-term abortions in a Senate showdown with plenty of political significance but little suspense.
Though the GOP controls the Senate, Democrats appeared certain to prevent them from getting the 60 votes needed today to move ahead on the bill. It would be the second time since this summer’s release of videos involving Planned Parenthood that Senate Democrats have scuttled a Republican effort to curb the organization and abortions.
The Republican bill would set criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for doctors who perform most abortions 20 weeks or more into pregnancy. The House approved the legislation in May.
“I’m asking colleagues to open their hearts and help defend the defenseless,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a presidential candidate and sponsor of the legislation, said the U.S. is one of just seven countries allowing abortions after 20 weeks and said: “America needs to get out of this club.”
Tuesday’s vote was coming two days before an unprecedented address to Congress by Pope Francis, who leads a Catholic church that shuns abortion.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the measure would fail and called it “a way for Senator McConnell to pander to extremists in his party who are once again holding government hostage so they can attack the health of women.”
Republicans hoped that simply allowing a vote on the bill — which Democrats would not when they controlled the Senate — would appeal to socially conservative voters and create campaign problems for Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states.