U.S. Democratic senators have blocked a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, ensuring that the procedure stays legal through the later terms of a woman’s pregnancy.
Republican leaders in the Senate knew the bill had little chance to pass, but wanted to pressure Democrats to take a stance on abortion, particularly vulnerable Democrats facing re-election and from states that voted for President Donald Trump.
The bill fell short by a 51 to 46 vote. It needed 60 votes to end a filibuster and proceed to a vote.
The vote largely fell along party lines, with only two Republicans voting against it — Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. Three Democrats voted for the measure. All three — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — are from states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
More than half of the Senate’s Democrats and independents are up for re-election this year, and 10 of them are in states Trump won.
“This afternoon, every one of us will go on record on the issue,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday ahead of the vote.
The legislation passed the House in October largely along party lines. The bill calls for a ban on abortions after five months, and would also threaten doctors who perform abortions after that time to five years in jail. The bill exempts women who need an abortion to save their lives, as well as rape and incest survivors.
Democrats criticized the Republican leadership on Monday for prioritizing an abortion ban less than a week after a government shutdown and before issues on spending and immigration are resolved.
“While the country is waiting for us to come together and solve problems, Republicans are wasting precious time with a politically motivated, partisan bill engineered to drive us apart — and hurt women,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, ahead of the vote.