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House votes to remove deadline for ratifying Equal Rights Amendment
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House votes to remove deadline for ratifying Equal Rights Amendment

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Equal Rights Amendment Congress

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters just before the House vote to remove the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to rescind the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

The resolution received bipartisan support, with 227 Democrats and five Republicans voting to remove the deadline. A vast majority of Republicans — 182 members — and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, an independent, opposed the measure.

Central New York's members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Anthony Brindisi and John Katko, split on the vote. Brindisi, D-Utica, joined Democrats to support the removal of the ratification deadline. Katko, R-Camillus, voted with Republicans against the resolution. 

Katko and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a North Country Republican, issued a joint statement explaining their votes against the measure. 

"As members of Congress, we have a long record of strongly supporting the spirit of equality and have led the effort on important initiatives like equal for equal work and paid leave for working parents," Katko and Stefanik said. "As it stands, this legislation is unconstitutional, and we agree with (Supreme Court Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The process for the Equal Rights Amendment began nearly five decades ago, and it needs to start over. 

They continued, "We remain committed to working together and with our colleagues across the aisle to accomplish meaningful reforms that achieve equality." 

Justice Ginsburg, who supports the Equal Rights Amendment, recently said that the deadline has passed and that she would "like to see a new beginning" for the ERA. 

The House resolution to remove the deadline for ratification faces an uncertain fate in the U.S. Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, hasn't said whether he'll allow a vote on the resolution. It's supported by at least two GOP senators, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. 

After Democrats won control of the state Legislature in Virginia, lawmakers there voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Counting Virginia's approval, 38 states have ratified the amendment. 

An amendment must be ratified by three-quarters of states to be added to the Constitution. 

During an hour-long debate Thursday morning, Democrats argued that the amendment would ensure equal rights for women. The text of the amendment states that the rights of U.S. citizens "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes the amendment would help combat issues facing women, such as the wage gap and discrimination in the workplace. 

"The ERA will strengthen America," she said. "It's not just about women. It's about America." 

Many Republicans who spoke in opposition to the resolution claimed the goal of the Equal Rights Amendment is to bolster abortion rights. 

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the amendment would create an "open door to abortion on-demand." 

Another Republican, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, argued the 14th Amendment already provides equal protection to citizens, including women. She said the real goal of the ERA is to "expand access to abortion up to birth." 

Pelosi disputed the Republicans' claims that the amendment was about abortion rights. 

"This has nothing to do with the abortion issue," she said. "That is an excuse, not a reason. It has everything to do with respect for women." 

Even if the Senate agrees to remove the deadline for ratification, there are other hurdles supporters will face in adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. 

There could be a legal dispute over whether Congress can remove the deadline for ratification. A handful of states that originally ratified the amendment later decided to rescind their approval. Whether states can rescind ratification is another unanswered question.

Without those states, there are 33 that ratified the ERA — five short of the number needed to amend the Constitution. 

Despite the unresolved legal questions, supporters are encouraged by the progress and believe they are closer than they have been in years to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. 

"Women are long past due equal protection under the law," said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat. "There is no deadline for equality. We demand our equality be spelled out in the Constitution, and we spell it E-R-A." 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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