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Elizabeth Warren Wants Congress to Do Its Job

Elizabeth Warren is worried. About access to the ballot box, about access to abortion, about “the fundamental freedoms in this country.” Since ending her presidential campaign over a year ago, Warren has maintained her place as a leading progressive voice in the Senate, speaking out against the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and cosponsoring legislative reforms like the For the People Act, The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation that would protect a pregnant person’s right to an abortion.

“Each intersects with the other,” the Massachusetts senator tells Teen Vogue. “A right-wing minority in this country has pushed for the appointment of a federal bench that is hostile to these basic rights. The Supreme Court is poised either to undercut Roe even further, or to overturn it altogether. They’ve already gutted a big part of the Voting Rights Act.”

But it is federal legislation, like the bills Warren is championing in the Senate, that could help to reassert Congress’s responsibility for maintaining these rights. ‘“This whole idea is that the right wanted to capture the Supreme Court and move the country in a direction where the majority does not want to go,” says Warren. “We can thwart that by having a Congress that shows a little more courage and that steps up and, by statute, protects the vote and protects access to abortion. This is within our hands.”

In an exclusive interview with Teen Vogue, the senator discusses ending the filibuster, the intersection between access to health care and access to the ballot box, and what young people can do to make sure their voices are heard.

Editor’s note: This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Teen Vogue: You recently met with the Texas Democratic delegation that fled to Washington to derail the passage of a restrictive voting law. You had a lot of encouragement for them, but you also said, “The moment is upon us. It is not enough for us [in Congress] to say that ‘we support you.’ We must change the law.” How hopeful are you that we will see that and see an end to the filibuster?

Elizabeth Warren: I have been fighting for a long time to get rid of the filibuster. And I want to see Congress do that. I think it’s the right thing to do. The founders of this nation figured out when a supermajority should be necessary and when it shouldn’t. They said that for regular legislation, that a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and the president who will sign the bill means it should become law. The exceptions they created were for treaties that overruled state law and impeachments. There is nothing in the Constitution that gives Mitch McConnell a veto over what Congress does. I would like to see us do this immediately.

When I talked about this two years ago, I’m not sure that there would have been a majority of Democrats who would have voted to get rid of the filibuster. But that has changed, in part as Mitch McConnell has made it clear again that his principle mission in life is to defeat a Democratic president and keep that president from doing anything. I am hopeful because I’ve seen movement — a lot of movement in the last year.

There are many steps between where we stand now, where Mitch McConnell can snap his fingers and we’re in a filibuster, and outright repeal. So there’s the talking filibuster. There’s the one-time exception or two-time exception where senators say, “Voting is so important” or “The rights of human beings to have their constitutional rights protected” — as in the constitutional right to an abortion — “are so important” that the senators will set aside the filibuster temporarily. They can do that. So that’s where I start this. And I’ll take anything to get us moving forward.

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