US Senate to vote on Equal Rights Amendment, a century after introduction

The U.S. Senate is set to vote on Thursday on a measure that could allow the Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the Constitution, though Republican opposition will likely doom the measure to failure.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer called the amendment, known as the ERA, crucial since the Supreme Court last year ended the national right to abortion, sparking a wave of new bans on the procedure in Republican-led states.

“Anyone who thinks the ERA isn’t necessary at a time like this isn’t paying attention to the terrible things happening in this country,” Schumer said in a Senate speech on Tuesday. “We need the ERA more than ever, ever before.”

It is all but certain to fail because it would require the support of nine Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance in the Senate where Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority.

Days after President Joe Biden launched his reelection bid, the vote highlights how women’s rights will likely be an issue in the campaign. Biden voiced his support for the ERA last year.

The ERA was first proposed in 1923 but did not pass Congress until 1972. Under U.S. law, amendments to the Constitution must be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures, or 38 of the 50.

Virginia became the 38th state to adopt the amendment in 2020, almost two decades after a 1982 deadline had expired.

Republican then-President Donald Trump sought to block the ratification with a legal memo saying the process must begin anew.

The resolution now before the Senate would remove the deadline so that the amendment could go into effect. It would not require presidential approval.

Whatever the vote outcome, the ERA will face legal challenges. Some states changed their positions over time, with legislatures that once ratified the amendment later rejecting it. It’s unclear whether those states would be bound by their initial votes.

Proponents say the amendment would entitle women to equal pay and secure their rights in legal matters, while opponents argue the amendment could lead to making abortion rights constitutional and force women into military service.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)