Home>Congress>Van Drew votes against ERA ratification extension after supporting, co-sponsoring it last year

Rep. Jeff Van Drew. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Van Drew votes against ERA ratification extension after supporting, co-sponsoring it last year

House passes resolution that could give the Equal Rights Amendment another chance

By David Wildstein, March 17 2021 9:08 pm

Thirteen months after voting to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment – a measure he co-sponsored — Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) voted against it today.

Van Drew was one of five Republicans to support the measure in 2020 when the 116th Congress considered it.

While still a Democrat, Van Drew became a co-sponsor of the move to extend the Equal Rights Amendment extension last September.

The resolution passed the House anyway, 222-204, and now heads to the U.S. Senate.

“Today, I voted to support the push for a constitutional amendment that I remember learning about when I was in kindergarten,” said Rep Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair). “We’ve been debating a version of this amendment for almost 100 years, since it was authored by a New Jersey woman named Alice Paul.”

Last year, the House voted 232-183 to extend the deadline for ratification of the ERA, but the U.S. Senate never acted on it.

Now, with Democrats in control of the Senate, the extension for states to ratify the constitutional amendment could get a vote.

Passage in the Senate won’t be easy.

The measure needs 60 votes – so ten Republican senators will need to vote yes.  In the House, just four Republicans voted for it.

After Van Drew switched parties in late 2019, he quietly removing his name from some bills he had signed on to as a Democratic congressman, but he remained a co-sponsor of the ERA extension after he became a Republican.

All ten Democrats in the New Jersey House delegation were co-sponsors.

“The fact that the effort to enshrine women’s rights in the Constitution has been so long and hard is not surprising, but I’m proud that with this vote we continue that work,” Sherrill said.  “I hope the Senate will join us in paving the way to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after all this time.”

Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature’s lower house in 2019 and voted in 2020 to ratify the ERA.  The Senate had already done so.

The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972 required ratification by 38 states by 1979.  It fell 3 states short, even with an extension to 1982.

Renewed interest in the ERA came when Nevada ratified it anyway in 2017 and Illinois in 2018.

Should Democrats win control of Virginia’s lower house this fall – it’s currently a 51-49 Republican majority – it’s possible to see the amendment ratified, if Congress extends the deadline.

The U.S. House of Representatives originally approved the constitutional amendment on October 12, 1971 by a 324-24 vote.

Thirteen New Jersey House members voted yes: Reps. John Hunt (R-Pitman), James Howard (D-Spring Lake Heights), Frank Thompson (D-Trenton), Peter Frelinghuysen (R-Harding), William Widnall (R-Ridgewood), Bob Roe (D-Wayne), Henry Helstoski (D-East Rutherford), Peter Rodino (D-Newark), Joseph Minish (D-West Orange), Cornelius Gallagher (D-Bayonne), Dominick Daniels (D-Jersey City), Edwin Forsythe (R-Moorestown), and the only woman in the New Jersey delegation, Florence Dwyer (R-Elizabeth).

The only no vote from New Jersey was cast by Rep. Charles Sandman (R-Cape May Court House).

The ERA was passed by the Senate on March 23, 1972.  Both of New Jersey’s U.S. Senators voted yes: Republican Clifford Case and Democrat Harrison Williams.

Helped by the time difference, the Hawaii Legislature voted to ratify on the same day.

New Jersey became the 12th state to ratify the ERA on April 17, 1972.  The Assembly voted 62-4 in favor of ratification.   The Senate had voted for ratification on March 28, 34-0.  Both houses were controlled by Republicans at the time.

Assemblywoman Ann Klein (D-Morris Township) voted for ratification, even though she opposed sending women into combat.  Klein said she was equally opposed to sending men to fight.

A bid to extend the ratification deadline in 1983 failed to pass the House by six votes.  Of New Jersey’s fourteen House members, just Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) and Forsythe voted against the measure.

Smith voted against the resolution today.

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