Two by Two
The evening sun highlighted the crowd on the lawn between the Custom House Maritime Museum and the Merrimac River as she sprinted toward our standing ovation. Senator Elizabeth Warren visited Newburyport, Massachusetts in August 2021 to update constituents on legislative actions in Washington.
After a quick briefing on the impacts of the stimulus law and infrastructure bills, the senator moved into questions. A lottery was used to select attendees with questions. If you had an issue, you received a numbered ticket, like at a carnival. Mine was 842150.
Most questions for Senator Warren were on infrastructure bills, climate change, and the Senate filibuster, which required sixty votes to pass legislation. The woman before me requested hope on the voting rights issue. My question was about ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the voting rights discussion would be an awesome lead in. The next number pulled was 842150. Mine!
I said I would like to expand on the equality conversation. She nodded. I was careful to be objective, since Senator Warren had not yet sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 1, the bill to remove the deadline to ratify the ERA. We have enough states that ratified (3/4) but the deadline passed in 1982. Congress can easily rectify this delay by removing the deadline. The House voted to remove the deadline in 2020 after Virginia ratified the ERA, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the Senate from voting on the bill.
Five senators have sponsored the bill: two democrats, one independent, and two republicans. What strategy would you recommend for encouraging the other Democrats to sponsor the ERA? Warren responded, “You’re probably wondering why your senator hasn’t sponsored the bill.” I nodded.
“If a bill is controversial, there’s a practice not to load it up with democratic sponsors, because partisan news outlets will brandish it as a democratic bill.” Then a smile appeared as if she were going to share a secret. “It’s called two by two, or Noah’s Ark.” Puzzled faces were everywhere. “Each democrat works with a republican who will also sponsor the bill, and they do so together.”
This explains the two democrats and two republicans who have already sponsored the bill. It also tells us when sixty votes are attained, the number necessary to prevent a filibuster!
This answer was so unexpected by me and others I talked with. It’s a whole new way to approaching the ERA. My question now is, “What republican are you working with, Senator Warren?” Of course, I was seated when it came to me. I will call her office and ask.
In 1972, Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment, said, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.”
I wonder what Alice, who died in 1977, would say about equality in 2021.
If you have a friend or relative in a red state, please ask them to contact their senator about sponsoring the Equal Rights Amendment.
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