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US Rep. Andy Biggs: Change Senate rules that hinder GOP pro-life agenda

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Americans elected Republicans to enact a pro-life agenda, yet Congress has done very little to protect life because of the Senate’s 60-vote rule. Until this arcane rule is repealed, we can only change policy around the margins. We must do more to defend the unborn.

It’s true, we have taken small steps to advance pro-life legislation, but we have taken a long stride through the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. There is more work ahead!

Last year, the U.S. House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill prevented abortion in the last trimester of pregnancies, when these babies can feel pain. The vast majority of Americans agree that babies who can feel pain and survive outside of the womb should be protected.

The U.S. Senate then took a procedural vote to allow the bill to come to the floor for consideration. The motion received 51 votes, a clear majority. Unbeknownst to most Americans, this pro-life bill was stopped short from receiving debate or even an up-or-down vote because of the 60-vote rule.

The Senate claims this rule is needed to respect tradition and protect political minorities, but does so at the peril of human lives and the pro-life movement. The House has passed hundreds of bills in the 115th Congress, including several other pro-life measures. In fact, earlier this year, the House approved the Born Alive Protection Act. Last year, the House defunded Planned Parenthood — albeit for just one year. The Senate would not consider the former and would not pass the latter.

“Tradition” may hinder Senate leadership from forgoing the extra-constitutional 60-vote rule, but that’s exactly what Harry Reid did first and Mitch McConnell did later when they changed the 60-vote rule for judicial appointments. This rule change allowed Gorsuch to sit on the Supreme Court today.

The 60-vote rule prevents constituents from receiving representation from their duly-elected senators. Senators, like representatives, were elected to take the tough votes consistent with their voters. Unfortunately, the Senate forbids this direct representation by voting rarely on actual legislation, as most bills fail to reach the required 60 votes that allow bills to be debated. Everyone suffers — especially the unborn.

The present rules and system continually block laws necessary to protect innocent, unborn children and, if left unchanged, will continue indefinitely.

Republicans must find the courage to admit that it doesn’t have to be this way. In this moment in history — with pro-life executive and legislative branch majorities and a mandate from the American people — we have the power to protect life. We should not reflect back on our time in Congress and wish we had done more.

Andy Biggs is an Arizona Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives. He wrote this op-ed exclusively for

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