The Supreme Court did it
The court’s conservative majority overturns Roe, ending the right to abortion care in the process. Plus: The gun safety bill is almost to the finish line and Congress extends school meal waivers.
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Breaking news: The Supreme Court has made it official. In a 5-4 decision that’s been expected since Politico published a leaked draft opinion from Justice Samuel Alito last month, the court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade, the 49-year-old landmark case that protected the constitutional right to abortion.
I’ve reported on the practical ramifications of this decision for pregnant people across the country. But as Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kegan wrote in dissent: “[A]dditional constitutional rights are under threat.”
I’ll have more to say in the days ahead on where we go from here after a weekend to report on the White House’s response, check in with advocates on the ground and hear from readers like you.
As always, send me your questions or, if you’re a paid subscriber, post them in the comments section below. You can respond directly to this email or write me at email@example.com.
Shortened recess averted
There was some uncertainty earlier this week about whether the House would be called back next week during their two-week recess to vote on the most substantive piece of gun safety legislation in a generation.
But as I write, members are preparing to vote on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed the Senate last night, and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
We’re a month removed from the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas — a catastrophe that gets worse the more we learn about the unacceptable response from local law enforcement — and about six weeks out from the gun violence that killed ten Black people and injured three others in Buffalo, New York.
You may remember locals from the Uvalde community pleaded with the president during his visit to the small town for the government to “do something” to prevent more of these uniquely American tragedies from occurring with such frequency. “We will,” he pledged then. And by the end of the day, it looks like he’ll be able to say they did.
House Democrats and gun safety groups are definitely disappointed that bans on high-capacity magazines, assault rifles and handguns — measures they believe would make the most meaningful impact — were left at the negotiating table. I can understand the frustration with progressives who see polls that show two-thirds of Americans want gun laws to be stricter, the highest share since shortly after the 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. They see that a record-high 55 percent of Americans want not only existing gun laws to be enforced more strictly but new ones on the books. They see that more than 80 percent of US registered voters who say gun policy will be “extremely important” or “very important” to their vote.
They also see a split 50-50 Senate that, in their eyes, is the reason much of their agenda has stalled. But the political reality is that the fact that a compromise brokered by some of the staunchest opponents of gun regulation in the Republican Party like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and the fierce gun-safety advocates like Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, two men with the distinctions of representing states besieged by senseless gun violence, is a feat in and of itself.
The Senate got it done on guns
While Senate Democrats needed just ten Republicans to join them in passing the bill, they got 15 — resulting in a 65-33 vote.
When you dive deeper into the makeup of these 15 GOP senators, their support is unsurprising: Eight aren’t up for reelection until 2026 (an absolute eternity in politics), Four of them are retiring and the other three were wild cards with an occasional maverick streak.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is one of the eight who won’t face voters again until after the next presidential election.
The longest-serving Senate Republican Leader in US history had his own internal polling to guide the calculus that convinced him to bless Cornyn to enter into negotiations on a gun safety bill in the first place.
And he spoke with candor about the politics that informed his decision to support the legislation: “We’ve lost ground in suburban areas. We pretty much own rural and small-town America. And I think this is a sensible solution to the problem before us, which is school safety and mental health,” McConnell said to Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine of Politico. “I hope it will be viewed favorably by voters in the suburbs that we need to regain in order to hopefully be in the majority next year.”
Sen. Murphy said during a speech before the vote that the bill also has a chance to prove to wary Americans that democracy can meet the moment despite it behaving in ways that suggest otherwise on almost everything else.
This has led President Biden to insert himself into the Senate’s business on several previous occasions, most notably the debate over his Build Back Better agenda last year. He’s a creature of the chamber, serving 36 years before former President Barack Obama tapped Biden as his vice president.
But after squandering much of his political capital with not as much to show for it, Biden took a step back in these negotiations to give senators the space to find a consensus.
The result is a bill, as I’ve reported, that provides funding to states and tribes to create and enforce “red flag laws” that would remove guns from people whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves and others. It also invests in mental health and suicide prevention programs and enhances protections for survivors of intimate partner violence. Additionally, the framework funds school safety programs, including training for school personnel and students, and makes it harder for criminals to evade licensing requirements. And it closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, which will prohibit access to guns by people convicted of domestic violence.
“Tonight, after 28 years of inaction, bipartisan members of Congress came together to heed the call of families across the country and passed legislation to address the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” he said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will help protect Americans. Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it.”