Senator Elizabeth Warren has a lot to be angry about. A month that started with a shocking leak that has all but confirmed a long-standing fear — that the Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade — has also given us at least a dozen mass shootings, including last week’s in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 elementary-school students and two teachers. The right-wing agenda for America has never felt more realized, despite the majority of Americans supporting abortion access and sensible gun laws. And a path forward on any of these issues feels far off even with Democrats’ (narrow) control of Congress and the White House.
It’s incredibly frustrating to watch — we’ve known Roe was under threat. It’s also been ten years since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, when politicians committed to passing sensible gun legislation. And guns are now the leading cause of death for young people. How do our elected officials not have a plan?
Warren has given a clear path forward: remove the filibuster, vote in more progressives, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and pass sensible gun laws. But how? She has been vocal about her anger and frustration with the Republican Party, but what about her own? She talks to the Cut about what the Senate plans to do should Roe v. Wade be overturned, why she threw her support behind Jessica Cisneros in her too-close-to-call primary race against Democratic House incumbent Henry Cuellar in Texas, and why we have to keep fighting even when winning feels impossible. “We don’t have the luxury of quitting,” she said. “It’s too important.”
Mukhopadhyay: You shared our piece a few weeks ago about being angry about the leaked draft decision. I was really angry, too. It feels like a lot has happened since then. How are you feeling today?
Warren: I am angrier than I was back then and more determined than ever to channel that anger into making real change. The reason I’m angrier is that Mitch McConnell wasn’t content to let the Supreme Court signal that it was about to overturn Roe v. Wade. He said that if Republicans get the majority, they will consider repealing access to abortion everywhere in America. That means there will be no one and no place that is safe. There will be no havens to flee to. There will be no blue states that can sit back and say, “This is not my problem.” Mitch McConnell has taken a disaster in the making and actually made it worse.
Mukhopadhyay: Advocates have been saying for a while that this was the plan, that they were going to come for Roe. Was there anything about the leaked decision that was shocking to you?
Warren: I was stunned by Alito’s language. He didn’t simply say reasonable people can differ, and now we’ve had more time to think about this, and here are five legal reasons for overturning Roe. His opinion is aggressive and hostile and makes clear he’s got the power and he plans to use it to step on any woman who disagrees with him.
Mukhopadhyay: Does it set a precedent for other cases to come? What does this mean for other rights? This is, in many ways, a tipping point right now.
Warren: Right, absolutely. Alito claims that it’s okay to overturn Roe because there’s not a long history of support for abortion rights. He’s wrong on that, but think about how that analysis applies elsewhere. There’s not a long history protecting interracial marriage or equal marriage or even access to contraception. Paragraph by paragraph, Alito’s opinion lays the foundation to take away all those rights, and once he’s on that roll, he and his extremist buddies on the Court can go after pretty much anything they want.
They’ve already eviscerated voting rights and union rights. They’ve already given billionaires outsize influence in our politics. This is an extremist Court that is well on its way to trying to remake this country. If they have their way, it will not be a country of equality of rights and opportunity. It will be a country in which a handful are on top and everyone else serves them.
Mukhopadhyay: It’s starting to feel inevitable. You have been an advocate for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which failed in the Senate. What is the plan for that now, moving forward? What can the Senate do if Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer? What is the first action?
Warren: Remember, we’ve got two branches of government to weigh in here. The administration should use every tool it can get its hands on to protect access to abortion. For example, the FDA should rework the rules on medication abortion to remove medically unnecessary restrictions. The administration should make certain that access to health care is protected. I want to just make sure we start there. There are things the administration can and should be doing now.
Over in the Senate, we will continue with hearings and votes, I hope, in order to make clear to the American people exactly how extreme the Republican leadership in the Senate has become. I should make a point that we kind of skipped over in this when we were talking about the Supreme Court. It’s crucial to remember that the Court does not get the last word on Roe unless we give it to them. Congress can decide who has access to abortion everywhere in this country. If we don’t have the votes to get that done today, then send the Democrats to Congress to give us the votes to get this done.
Mukhopadhyay: Right. Well, on that, the Texas District 28 race was really close. You endorsed Jessica Cisneros over the incumbent Democratic representative, Henry Cuellar, and against the party leadership.
Mukhopadhyay: The day after another mass shooting in Texas, the party leadership was doing robocalls for the incumbent, who has an A rating by the NRA and voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act. What are we supposed to make of this? Is this the party that is going to support the candidate who is pro-choice and for gun legislation or not?
Warren: I’ve got to make two points. The first one is the Republicans all voted against protecting access to abortion, period. That’s where every conversation about the politics needs to start, and that is the responsibility of a Republican Party that has worked hard to get extremist judges onto the Supreme Court to accomplish something they knew was unpopular across the country.
The fact that not a single Republican will step up to vote for a bill to protect a woman’s access to abortion is shameful and needs to be underscored at every turn. Democrats also need to step up — all of us. Let me put it this way: We are the party that is fighting for equal opportunity for women, and that needs to be true both legislatively and in our electoral politics. I’ve thrown in with candidates who are willing to fight for access to abortion, for gun safety, for protecting our climate, for voting rights, and that’s what I’ll keep doing. This is how democracy works. We elect the people who represent our views. This is the fight.
I also want to say, however this comes out down in the race in Texas, I am so proud of Jessica and her courage to get into a tough race against a well-financed incumbent. She has been willing to put it all on the line to support the people who need her most. It’s an honor to fight alongside her, and that’s true whether she wins or loses. By getting in the fight, she has helped make real change, and I’m grateful to her for that.
Mukhopadhyay: Is Cisneros emblematic of the future of the party? Is that where your hope is? Is that what we should be hopeful for? Because right now, I think people are just feeling so frustrated. They don’t know what to do. We’re repeatedly being told, “Vote in November,” and of course we will, and we have, but I think people are not feeling confident right now.
Warren: We don’t get to pick fights in which we are confident of wins. We don’t have the luxury of only fighting the fights where we’re pretty confident we can win. This is the fight in front of us, and the Republicans are willing to take away the rights of women, the rights of American citizens. They’re willing to take away the rights of women to make their own health-care decisions, take away the rights of Americans to vote, and get their vote counted. To take away the rights of parents and neighbors and friends who want children to be able to go to school without facing the risk of a mass shooting.
These are hard fights. The people in power will not yield easily. The Republicans have worked hard to get here, and they’re not going to give up just because the overwhelming majority of Americans want something different. They’re going to keep trying to push their extremist agenda on us. This is the moment we’ve been called to. It’s time to fight back. I get it that people say, “Well, I’m not 100 percent sure we’re going to win.” Neither am I, but that’s all the more reason to be in the fight.
Mukhopadhyay: You wrote in an op-ed in the Times that we need to overturn the filibuster. What do you see as the path forward for that?
Warren: Give us two progressive senators, and we can get rid of the filibuster and protect access to abortion, pass gun-safety legislation, get universal child care, protect the right of every American citizen to vote, and wage a far more effective fight on the climate front. We can do all of that. We just need two more.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.