Democratic Senate nominee Michael Franken said Friday he’s unsure what action federal legislators should take in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights.
Franken won the Democratic primary to take on U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in November’s general election. He told the Iowa Capital Dispatch he learned about the Supreme Court decision a half-hour before an appearance on “Iowa Press.”
“I found it stunning, frankly,” he said. “I thought they were just going to side with Mississippi with the 15-week thing and be done with it. But they’ve gone quite remarkably further.”
The retired U.S. Navy admiral said during the primary campaign that he supported codifying the right to abortion into federal law. But there’s not much hope of successfully passing any legislation on federal abortion rights anytime soon, as Democrats would need 60 votes to clear a Senate filibuster or 50 votes to change Senate rules.
Franken said that he did not know yet what action the U.S. Senate should take on abortion.
“I don’t exactly know,” he said. “I haven’t formulated that sensibility on it. But I do find it just distressing that one of the first hugely partisan issues that the Supreme Court rules on has to do with women.”
President Joe Biden called on Congress Friday to pass laws protecting abortion rights.
During “Iowa Press,” Franken said he believes this decision shows what course the court, which had three new justices appointed during former President Donald Trump’s tenure, plans to take.
“I think the second thing they’re going to end up doing is going after minority rights,” Franken said. “And I believe this is going down a path, pushing things to the state, which is directly in line with what the Republicans have been working for, for 30 years. Win local elections, win state elections, push things down to the state, and we can have our way.”
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization only directly impacts abortion rights, Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the decision, wrote.
“To ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterize, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” Alito wrote. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, however, wrote in a concurring opinion that the logic employed to overturn Roe could apply to other cases, such as federal rulings on contraception, gay marriage and sodomy laws.
Franken said Friday’s opinion, combined with the threat of future rights restrictions, will motivate voters in the upcoming election.
“I think this will cause a blue wave,” he said. “The oddities of thought, the radical right’s perspective, is not where this country wants to go. And I hope that it draws out the voters … who see the future of this country not to be to their liking.”
But a Democratic takeover of U.S. Congress would not change the Supreme Court’s make-up. Franken said that he does not support some Democrats’ proposal to expand the Supreme Court, but would consider a constitutional amendment enacting term limits for Supreme Court justices.
Grassley, Franken’s rival for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, praised the court decision Friday. In a statement, Grassley said he agreed with the decision to overrule the “weak legal reasoning” outlined in Roe, and puts abortion policy back in the hands of legislators.
The longtime incumbent senator said Americans should respect the court’s decision.
“The people can advocate for policy priorities in the public square, the halls of Congress and at the ballot box, as so many pro-life Americans have done throughout the past five decades,” Grassley said in a statement. “Seeking to intimidate or attack the court or undermine its credibility because of an outcome that you don’t support is not the answer.”
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