Why Flipping The Senate Is Crucial for Women

October 21, 2020

While voters are well aware how important this year’s presidential elections is, many may not realize that this election could also affect the future of the Senate. Because the vice president serves as the tiebreaker in the Senate, a Democratic presidential victory, as well as at least three or four Democratic candidates winning formerly Republican seats, could flip the Senate (which has been controlled by Republicans since 2015) to a Democratic majority. 

In fact, there are 10 races considered flippable. Democratic Senate candidates Mark Kelly in Arizona, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, former Governor Steve Bullock in Montana, and Jaime Harrison in South Carolina are just a few candidates running competitive, pivotal Senate races. 

But perhaps even more attention has been paid to women candidates running for key seats. Military veteran Amy McGrath is taking on Senator Mitch McConnell decades after he ignored a letter she sent to him at age 13 asking him to change military policies to allow her to become a fighter pilot. Candidates like Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, Sara Gideon in Maine, MJ Hegar in Texas, and Dr. Barbara Bollier in Kansas could make all the difference. Greenfield, Gideon, Heger, and Bollier will all face off against incumbents who voted to confirm the anti-abortion, alleged abuser Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and have consistently supported policies that disproportionately harm women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and immigrants — from taking away health care, to stalling life-saving COVID-19 relief.

Here are just a few reasons it’s crucial we flip the Senate in November. 

We must protect the courts

Under the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate has focused on hypocritically forging ahead with the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett before the election. Barrett is not only on the record opposing the Affordable Care Act ahead of a major Supreme Court case on the law, but also signed a letter calling for the reversal of Roe v. Wade

But depending on the swearing-in dates for Senators from pivotal states like Arizona and if there is delay of voting in the Senate, flipping the Senate could prevent Barrett’s confirmation or prevent future Trump nominees from taking seats on the court.

Flipping the Senate is essential not just to protect the Supreme Court, but also to protect circuit courts across the country. Courts have the power to decide everything from health care access to environmental justice to abortion rights for generations. With about three months left in his first term, President Trump has already appointed more judges than Presidents Bush and Obama did in both of their terms — not to mention some of the most unqualified judges in history. 

The need for COVID-19 relief has never been more urgent

With more than 220,000 deaths across the country, and soaring unemployment and poverty rates that have disproportionately targeted women of color, Americans need relief in the wake of COVID-19. But instead of eviction moratoriums and distributing additional stimulus checks, the Republican-controlled Senate has focused on the installation of a Supreme Court Justice who could vote to dismantle health care access during a pandemic. 

The Heroes Act, which passed in the House and offers relief to essential workers and businesses, has been delayed in the Senate since May, even as several Senators have already tested positive for the coronavirus. The detrimental impact of these delays has fallen heaviest on women and communities of color, who already face the highest rates of poverty and unemployment which have been made worse by the pandemic. 

The Senate could decide reproductive rights and abortion access

In addition to deciding the makeup of courts across the country that are constantly ruling on state abortion laws — from abortion bans, to restrictions on medication abortion care, to laws that shut down clinics — the Senate is also key to passing policies on funding for reproductive health care. 

A majority of members of the House of Representatives support repealing the Hyde Amendment, a policy that prohibits Medicaid funding for abortion care and disproportionately blocks low-income women and women of color from having abortions. But any budget passed by the House that would allow coverage of abortion would be dead on arrival in an anti-abortion majority Senate. 

The Senate could also be instrumental to passing legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumethal, which would prohibit states from imposing medically unnecessary restrictions and regulations on abortion providers to push care out of reach.

We need to pass legislation that actually helps people

Flipping the Senate would also help move forward groundbreaking legislation that was already passed in the Democratic-controlled House. Since Democrats flipped the House in the 2018 midterm elections and ushered in record-breaking numbers of women and people of color into the halls of Congress, the freshman class has introduced and helped pass dozens of bold bills and reforms. These bills have included measures that advocate for fair wages for essential workers (who are more likely to be women and people of color), abortion coverage, ta clean energy deal, COVID-19 relief, and more. 

Nevertheless, legislation has died on McConnell’s desk. As the Majority Leader, McConnell has prioritized installing conservative federal judges over anything else. The existential threat that four more years of President Trump poses has never been clearer. Trump, his administration, and his enablers in Congress and up and down the ballot have exacerbated the public health and economic crises we face today with their negligence and lies. The current fight at the Supreme Court also reminds us of the generational consequences of a second Trump term, even beyond this current moment. 

The future of the country lies not just in the presidential race, but in Senate races, House races, state legislature races, and city and local elections, too. Often, the work of local lawmakers can carry the greatest impact on our day-to-day lives. Real change has always happened from the bottom up — and often, with the help of progressive female leadership.