Democratic control of Senate critical to protecting abortion rights, Cortez Masto says

By: - July 1, 2022 2:26 pm

“What this Court has made very clear is they’re willing to erode the rights of this country,” Cortez Masto said. “So, if they’re coming for me, they’re coming for other people.” (Photo: Dana Gentry)

Nevada’s senior U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto says defeating Republican candidate Adam Laxalt is all that stands between American women and a federal abortion ban.  

“If we do not protect the seat, we are going to lose those rights that we have fought for,” Cortez Masto said at an event in Las Vegas Friday, where she talked about the Supreme Court opinion stripping American women in some states of their right to an abortion.   

“I’ll tell you, this opinion, not only does it erode those rights, but it’s now on track to take away what we have done here in the state of Nevada,” Cortez Masto said, adding she has “Republican colleagues right now what are drafting legislation” for a federal ban on abortion.  

“(Sen. Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell has said that he is not opposed to further restricting abortion through federal legislation for an abortion ban,” she said. “If he wins, and he takes control of the Senate again, they’re gonna be on track to try to pass a federal abortion ban which will preempt our state laws…”  

In an interview with USA Today in May, McConnell said if the Supreme Court turned back Roe v. Wade, “legislative bodies … certainly could legislate in that area.” 

The Supreme Court’s ruling has prompted some Democrats to call on the Biden administration to do more to protect abortion rights. Democratic senators, including Cortez Masto and fellow Nevada Democrat Jacky Rosen, sent a letter to the president last weekend urging him to “use the full force of the federal government” to protect abortion access.

While Cortez Masto discussed ways to mitigate the fallout from the ruling by advocating for data privacy, ensuring access to abortion medication, and conducting oversight in anti-abortion states, she appears less confident in Congress’s ability to pass pro-choice legislation in the next six months, while Democrats still control the House of Representatives and the Senate – control that could be taken by Republicans in the midterm elections.  

Cortez Masto says she supports Pres. Joe Biden’s call for suspending filibuster rules in order to pass pro-choice legislation with a majority vote, rather than the 60 votes needed for most votes in the Senate.  

“I’ve already been there,” said Cortez Masto, who previously favored changing the rules to mandate a “standing filibuster” rather than eliminating it.

She said including legislation in a budget resolution bill won’t work, noting Democrats tried that tactic with an immigration bill and got called out by the Senate parliamentarian, who can determine a provision falls outside the purview of the budget bill. However, the Senate parliamentarian can be overruled.  Cortez Masto did not address that possibility directly.  

“We’re going to look at everything we can possibly do,” she said, in the “short term and long term, everything we can at the end of the day, to protect a woman’s autonomy.”

Citing the opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, which calls for revisiting already-settled matters such as rights to contraception and marriage equality, Cortez Masto said she and other senators are working on legislation “because we see that door opening.”

Cortez Masto says she doesn’t trust Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Samuel Alito to walk back Thomas’s suggestion.  

“Here’s the thing – what this Court has made very clear is they’re willing to erode the rights of this country,” she says. “So, if they’re coming for me, they’re coming for other people.”

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.