The Senate on Thursday failed to advance a resolution that would have removed a 1982 deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment has been ratified by 38 states — the three-fourths necessary to amend the Constitution — but a few of the states had voted to ratify it after the 1982 deadline. 

The bill failed to advance in a 51-47 vote, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changing his vote at the last minute to keep it open for debate. The bill had two GOP sponsors, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, but it failed to win the support of any other Republicans. 

Democrats do not have all 51 members voting on the floor right now because Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been out while she recovers from shingles. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also was not present for the vote. 

The amendment would guarantee the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) heads to a rally with fellow Democratic Senators, reproductive rights groups and military veterans to oppose the Republican Congressional Review Act on Veterans Affairs reproductive health care outside the U.S. Capitol on April 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. 

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Republicans who oppose the ERA have said they don’t believe it is necessary, and others have said it would raise legal questions about Congress’ authority to remove ratification deadlines.

The Democratic-controlled House in 2021 passed a resolution to extend the deadline by a vote of 232 to 183, with five Republicans joining all Democrats in voting in favor of the legislation. But it failed to move forward then in the evenly-divided Senate. 

The ERA was first proposed in 1923, and it passed both Houses of Congress in 1972, but it needed to be ratified by at least three-fourths of the states, or 38 states, to be added to the Constitution within seven years. The deadline was later extended to 1982, but only 35 of the 38 needed approved it by then. 

Three more states have since approved it, bringing the total number to 38. But the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump had argued that the time period had elapsed and Congress would need to pass it again and it would again need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.