WASHINGTON, D.C., February 26, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) gave an impassioned plea on the Senate floor yesterday regarding the need for a new federal law to ensure that infants delivered alive after failed abortions are sufficiently protected against the possibility of being left to die.
The Senate voted 56-41 Tuesday in favor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require abortionists to transfer infants who survive abortions to hospitals, where they would be given the same degree of care as any wanted newborn. It also voted 53-44 in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions starting at 20 weeks (or five months) into pregnancy (by which point science indicates preborn babies are capable of feeling pain). Neither bill passed, however, as the Senate’s current filibuster rules require 60 votes for most types of legislation.
Before the vote, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested the bill was a red herring, BH News Service reports. “To argue that you have some novel idea that infanticide should be a crime and we don’t cover it now under the law is just not accurate,” he said, noting that notorious Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted for killing babies after birth.
Sasse responded by noting that while it is already illegal to actively kill babies after delivery, no federal law specifically criminalizes the denial of care to unwanted newborns.
“It’s about infanticide. That’s the actual legislation,” Sasse said in response to those who’ve framed the born-alive bill as an “abortion” law. “And you’ve got 44 people over there who want to hide from it and talk in euphemisms about abortion because they don’t want to defend the indefensible.” For an example of such euphemisms, Sasse highlighted a recent CNN report which used the phrase “fetus that was born” in place of “baby” or “infant.”
While pro-life activists and commentators have responded to the vote with widespread praise of Sasse and condemnation of Democrats, however, considerably less attention has been paid to the GOP-backed Senate filibuster rules responsible for the bills’ failure. Those rules require most standalone bills to attain 60 votes to end debate before moving onto the final simple-majority vote.
It would have been possible, albeit time-consuming, to circumvent the filibuster by forcing the minority party to engage in a literal filibuster and enforce the “two-speech rule” limiting the number of times individual Democrats can speak. But McConnell has long been unwilling to repeal, alter, or otherwise weaken the legislative filibuster, with little discussion among the GOP or pro-life groups of modifying or maneuvering around it.
In fact, while Sasse himself has gained a pro-life following as the lead sponsor of the born-alive bill, his support for the legislative filibuster that defeated it has gone largely ignored.
“The filibuster flows from the Founders’ design of a system in which they wanted to make it hard, not easy, for government to act,” Sasse claimed in a 2016 op-ed. “The desire to limit debate so government can move quickly is usually a radical, not a conservative, instinct.”
In fact, America’s Founders rejected the idea that a legislative minority should be able to block most legislation, and the Constitution they designed only requires a supermajority vote in a limited handful of circumstances. Further, the current rules don’t require the minority to actually engage in debate in order to filibuster legislation; a “debate” period is simply presumed to be unlimited in the absence of 60 votes to move to a final vote.