Democratic Senate hopeful proposes ‘pausing’ filibuster for abortion and voting rights

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Democratic Senate hopeful proposes ‘pausing’ filibuster for abortion and voting rights

MIAMI — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, the leading Democratic candidate to take on Sen. Rick Scott of Florida this fall, said she would support pushing aside the Senate filibuster to pass a handful of policy measures, including federal protections for abortion.

“Democracy is 50-plus-one, and for certain issues, I am very much in favor of pausing the filibuster and voting for a woman’s right to choose to codify Roe v. Wade,” Mucarsel-Powell, a former House member from the Miami area, said in an interview Wednesday after a news conference at which she addressed the implementation of Florida’s six-week abortion ban.

Mucarsel-Powell said she would also support undoing the filibuster, which requires 60 Senate votes to advance most legislation, to pass federal voting rights protections and gun measures. 

Pressed about whether she would support completely removing the filibuster without the possibility of reinstalling it, Mucarsel-Powell demurred.

“I have to think about that,” she said, adding that the filibuster has “been there for quite some time” and that she would “need to understand the implications” before she decided whether to support permanently removing it.

Mucarsel-Powell’s statement comes amid broader Democratic efforts to link their 2024 campaigns and abortion rights, both in terms of federal policy platforms and the abortion-rights ballot measures that will go before voters in a number of states this fall, including Florida. And while Democratic performance has slid in Florida in recent years, a number of polls there have shown broad support for abortion rights, even as state Republicans enacted a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, one of the stricter limits nationwide.

Democrats’ attempts to eliminate the Senate filibuster have come up short in recent years.

Eliminating the filibuster was a rallying cry for a number of Democratic Senate candidates in 2020. But the party took the Senate by only a narrow margin, and Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were key players in blocking fellow Democrats’ efforts to remove the barrier in the early years of the Biden administration.

Manchin and Sinema, who later left the party and became an independent, have both since announced they will not seek re-election this year. That might help tip the Senate back into Republican control, but it also means any future Democratic majority might be more amenable to rules changes to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for most legislation.

For example, Rep. Ruben Gallego, the Democrat seeking to succeed Sinema in Arizona, has signaled support for reforming the procedure.

Mucarsel-Powell has put a laser focus on abortion rights in the weeks since Florida’s state Supreme Court voted to allow a referendum to go before voters this fall that, if it passes, would put Roe v. Wade-era protections into the state constitution.

“We have an amendment on the ballot at the same time,” she said, adding that voters will “have an opportunity to make sure that extremists like Rick Scott, someone that supports this extreme abortion ban, doesn’t get re-elected.”

Sen. Rick Scott.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., at the Capitol in March.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images file

“If we pass this amendment here in the state of Florida but he gets re-elected, he goes back to the Senate and pushes an abortion ban at the federal level,” she continued.

Recently, Scott has offered mixed signals on the issue of abortion. In a few days in April, he said he believes there is “consensus” around 15-week restrictions, but he also said in an interview with Spectrum News that he would have signed the state’s new six-week ban into law if he were still the governor.

Scott’s campaign said he does not favor national legislation on abortion.

“Everyone knows that Senator Rick Scott supports the right to life. Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell does not,” Scott campaign spokesman Will Hampson said in a statement. 

“Floridians agree that there should be some reasonable limits placed on abortion. Senator Scott has been very clear where he stands: No national bans, with the consensus at 15 weeks with limitations for rape, incest and life of the mother,” he added.

Alec Hernández

Alec Hernández is a 2024 NBC News campaign embed.

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