Schumer puts the Senate in campaign mode

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is shifting into campaign mode as he plans a series of messaging votes on border security, access to contraception and other hot-button issues.

The shift reflects a broad recognition within the Senate that there is little chance of substantive legislation being passed between now and Election Day, as lawmakers prepare for a grueling campaign.

Schumer has largely avoided so-called “show votes” on bills that have little chance of passage, wanting to focus for most of this Congress — and for Democrats' first two years in the Senate majority in 2021 and 2022 — on legislation that could actually become law.

But senators don't expect much to be done before the election, aside from confirming judicial and executive branch nominees, now that Congress has safely approved $61 billion in funding for Ukraine, the annual appropriations bills for the 2024 fiscal year and twenty-five billion dollars in financing for Ukraine. year-old reauthorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“We're getting closer to the election,” said a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to explain Schumer's new focus on mail-in ballots.

“The question is: what can we do for the rest of the year?” the lawmaker asked, noting that the top priorities — Ukraine funding, government funding, reauthorizing unsupervised surveillance by FISA and the FAA — have already been done.

Democrats are feeling increasingly nervous about losing their Senate majority as new polls last week showed President Biden trailing in five battleground states, including Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, where Senate races are also taking place.

Many Democratic senators are concerned that border security has become a political liability for Biden, but they see an advantage over Republicans on women's health issues, especially abortion rights.

The Senate will vote Thursday on a bipartisan border security treaty that received just four Republican votes when it was brought up as part of an emergency foreign aid package in February.

Senate Republicans, including the bill's co-author, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), say they will vote overwhelmingly Thursday to block the legislation again, even though it was approved by the House earlier this year National Border Patrol Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal.

That's something Schumer and other Democrats say will be a good talking point in campaign ads and on the stump this fall, when they face a barrage of Republican attacks on border security.

“Three months ago, Donald Trump told his Republican allies to block the strongest bipartisan border security bill in a generation. Fortunately, we'll try again tomorrow, and I hope Republicans join us this time to achieve a different outcome,” Schumer said Wednesday.

Schumer tried to draw more attention to Thursday's vote by previewing it earlier this month and holding a news conference Wednesday afternoon about the flow of fentanyl across the southern border.

But Schumer and other Democrats know full well that the bill is expected to attract at most two or three Republican votes.

They know that there is essentially no chance of getting Republicans to support any border security legislation or proposals to protect women's access to reproductive health care. That's why they plan to suppress their Republican colleagues with votes for political messages.

Schumer also announced in the Senate on Wednesday that he will call a vote next month on the Right to Contraception Act, which Democrats hope to use to further challenge rulings by conservative judges that have limited women's access to health care, including abortions. to draw attention to, to draw further attention to.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said Democrats plan to highlight their political and policy differences with Republicans on other issues, but declined to say what other bills are yet to come.

“You'll have to wait with bated breath to determine what's next, but there will be other possibilities,” she said.

However, Republicans are taking the votes away because they are unlikely to do much to protect vulnerable Democratic incumbents such as Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

“This is really just a political stunt at this point, and I think most people will see it that way,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (SD).

He said the issue is “ingrained” in the way many voters view Republicans and Democrats, as polls show voters trust the Republican Party more to handle border security.

“There is no way [Democrats] can run away from it. They own it. Their incumbents own it,” Thune said.

Lankford, the bill's lead Republican author, said there is “no doubt” the bill would improve the situation at the border, but he said Schumer is not bringing it up with a genuine desire to get it passed.

“This is not the intention to achieve anything. This is now about messaging,” he said.

Senate Democrats say they expect Schumer to organize other votes later this year on other bills related to women's access to health care and reproductive rights.

Schumer forced Republicans to vote on the Women's Health Protection Act in May 2022 after a draft opinion of the Supreme Court's majority ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which struck down the right to abortion, was leaked to the public.

Republicans blocked that bill by a vote of 49 to 51, with some of them arguing that it went far beyond simply codifying abortion rights established in 1973 by Roe v. Wade.

Schumer also brought voting rights legislation to the Senate in January 2021, even though it was abundantly clear that it would not receive enough support from the Republican Party to pass.

Democrats advanced the bill to highlight what they said was a refusal by Senate Republicans to protect voting rights, especially those of Black voters, from a barrage of new restrictions at the state level.

But much of the 2022 election year, with Democrats still in control of the House of Representatives, was spent passing major bipartisan bills, including legislation to address gun violence after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and to to stimulate production of semiconductors.

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