Politics

Joe Manchin Says He Hopes Republicans Will Agree to Pass Legislation Restoring Roe, Might Actually Mean It

Joe Manchin walks down a hallway in the Capitol.
Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol on June 14. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday incinerated Roe v. Wade like an old oil rag, laying the groundwork for states to ban abortion for the first time since the 1970s. So, it seems like a good time to check in with Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, the two Democrats who’ve functionally blocked their party from passing federal legislation protecting the right to choose by opposing changes to the Senate filibuster, and who, in Manchin’s case, also voted outright against a bill that would have codified Roe’s safeguards (and a bit more) in May. Surely they must have something meaningful to say.

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Let’s start with Sinema:

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Will work with anyone! Great. But, like, who? And how?

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And as for Manchin: Where do his thoughts lie, after voting for both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who in turn voted to overrule Roe?

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Let’s zoom in there.

I am deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. It has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years and was understood to be settled precedent. I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans. 

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Manchin feels disappointed and misled. It’s a sentiment that could have come straight from his friend Susan Collins. Is there any chance this might have made him rethink his lifelong fetishization of bipartisanship?

As a Catholic, I was raised pro-life and will always consider myself pro-life. But have come to accept that my definition of pro-life may not be someone else’s definition of pro-life. I believe the exceptions should be made in instances of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. But let me be clear, I support legislation that would codify the rights Roe v. Wade previously protected. I am hopeful Democrats and Republicans will come together to put forward a piece of legislation that would do just that. 

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(Emphasis mine.)

I mean, if this statement were coming from any other politician, I would assume it was disingenuous trolling, given the nonexistent possibility that 10 Republicans would ever back a bill protecting abortion rights. But this being Manchin, who genuinely seems to believe in the numinous power of working across the aisle, I can’t help but read it as sincere. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s spouting lines he knows won’t ever come true and rhetorically smirking at fellow Democrats in their pain. But I wouldn’t be shocked if, somehow, against all empirical evidence, he is personally hopeful for a 60-vote solution in the American Senate as presently comprised. The statement is so absurd, it almost has to be genuinely felt.

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Sincere or not, this is why Democrats are now foundering in the face of a generational defeat for their values, and why there’s next to no chance Democrats will just do something, no matter how many grieving progressives tweet it in all caps today. The party’s 50th vote just publicly expressed hope that the opposing party will reverse itself immediately after scoring a victory it’s been pursuing single-mindedly for half a century. This is who the entire Democratic agenda is resting on.

Read more of Slate’s coverage on abortion rights here.

For more on the legal fight that led to the original Roe versus Wade decision, listen to the latest episode of Slow Burn.

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