House Republican leaders abruptly dropped plans late Wednesday to vote on an anti-abortion bill amid a revolt by female GOP lawmakers concerned that the legislation’s restrictive language would once again spoil the party’s chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters…
Republican leaders dropped those plans after failing to win over a bloc of lawmakers, led by Reps. Rene Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who had raised concerns…
[Ellmers] had recently asked leaders to reconsider holding the vote, noting that Republicans had faced harsh criticism from Democrats in recent years for mounting a “war on women” by passing restrictive abortion legislation and other similar bills.
“The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials—social issues just aren’t as important [to them],” she said in an interview with National Journal.
A week prior, a diverse group of Republican women, including Ellmers, Kristi Noem and Cynthia Lummis, had brought their concerns to Majority Whip Steve Scalise. They said, according to people who were in the room, that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was turning into a bill that defined rape and distracted from the bill’s intent of stopping late-term abortions. They were livid about a clause in the bill that required a woman to have reported sexual assault to police in order to be eligible for the procedure.
After the meeting, the women walked away confident that Scalise had understood their concerns and that once he relayed them to leadership, they would change the language in the bill. But the leaders didn’t — either because they underestimated the depth of the complaints, or overestimated their own ability to smooth over rough feelings before the bill hit the floor…
Why leadership did not initially listen to the women still baffles members of the conference, many of whom spoke privately to reconstruct a timeline of events leading up to the ultimate decision to pull the bill…
“I think the leadership genuinely feels bad about this. Genuinely,” one woman said. “I hope that that will translate into listening to people who have voting cards instead of listening to people who don’t have voting cards.”
“It’s unfortunate the way it played out,” Ellmers, a Republican from North Carolina, told reporters Thursday morning. “I think we’re all just going through some growing pains.”
Ellmers supports banning abortion past the midway point of pregnancy — which is what the bill the House originally planned to pass Thursday would have done. But she wants it tweaked so that women who have been raped don’t have to report it to law enforcement before they can obtain an abortion…
Ellmers said she’s pushing for removing the reporting requirement because it’s hard on women who may not want to notify law enforcement. A majority of rapes in the country go unreported, she noted. And now that Republicans have majority in both the House and Senate, any legislation they pass must be carefully vetted to make sure it’s not viewed as harsh by women or young people, she said.
“When we come off as harsh and judgmental, we stop that conversation and we’ve got to learn to be doing a better job,” she said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was looking forward to a debate on abortion policy once the issues with the bill are resolved.
“This is going to be about wholesale abortions on demand in 20 weeks, five months into pregnancy, and it won’t be about rape,” Graham said. “Nobody’s for rape.”
The House moved forward and passed a bill Thursday against federal funding for abortion services, after pulling back from the floor a measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks. House Republican leaders have said the original bill is not dead, and Graham intends to bring it to the Senate floor once modifications are made.
“Somebody in the House put a provision in there, if you didn’t report the rape to law enforcement, then it’s not going to be considered a legitimate rape. Well, that’s ridiculous,” Graham told reporters. “I’ve been, you know, in criminal law all my life, and the vast majority of women who are raped don’t report it, so we’re not going to go down that road.”
Some pro-life groups were surprised by Ellmers’ objections to the bill, but Ellmers insisted on Wednesday that she changed her position because the bill has changed since she last voted on it. “It really isn’t the same as it was last year,” Ellmers told me. “It is the most confusing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Ellmers is incorrect. The text of the bill that she voted for on June 18, 2013 (you can read it here) included the reporting requirement that she now opposes. Democrats did not make an issue of the reporting requirement in 2013 or during the 2014 elections. In 2014, the issue of late-term abortion actually hurt Democratic Senate candidates.
By creating controversy where none previously existed, Ellmers and other dissenters have ensured that Democrats will attack the reporting requirement. The reporting requirement does not seem, however, to be a significant political vulnerability. A Quinnipiac poll that explicitly mentioned the requirement found that American voters still support the legislation by a 2-1 margin.
Ellmers, according to multiple sources, persuaded a number of women in the House Republican Conference to walk away from the bill to ensure it could not pass. Then she declared she’d vote for it once she was sure it could not pass.
It was a two-faced ploy that worked…
The legislation, which even Renee Ellmers voted for in 2013, did not subject the GOP to attacks in 2014. In fact, it put several Democrats on defense.
Hopefully, between this and her immigration betrayal, someone in Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) district will begin a campaign to unseat her. In fact, last night Planned Parenthood was praising Ellmers.
“I want to tell you…we are very upset with Renee,” Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, told the staffer. “We are going to make sure someone else takes her seat in 2016. We are not going to put up with these shenanigans. She cratered a big pro-life victory today.”
Fitzgerald told BuzzFeed News that Ellmers was their focus because she had voted for similar legislation last congress and that Ellmers “had been on record as a no-exception pro-lifer.”
“She started this folly. Instead of getting behind a pro-life bill that will save 18,000 unborn children per year…she has fought behind the scenes to get the bill pulled off the calendar today and change it,” Fitzgerald said. “I do not believe the controversy over this rape exception is big enough to torpedo a major pro-life bill like this.”
The latest Marist/Knights of Columbus poll shows that 60 percent of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong…
When asked by pollsters when a woman should be legally allowed an abortion, only nine percent said any time during her entire pregnancy. Eight percent said only during the first six months of her pregnancy.
Even 69 percent of respondents who described themselves as pro-choice believed that abortion should be allowed only in the first trimester or in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of the mother.
As regular readers know, I am constantly preaching prudence and the importance of strategy. And sometimes, principled fights are stupid and actually counterproductive to the cause. That’s not what this is. The notion that abandoning the Life issue is politically sagacious ignores the fact that this bill enjoys broad popularity, and that Republicans voted on an identical bill in 2013, without incident…
But what they have now done is incredibly stupid. First, they betray loyal supporters — many of whom fall outside the Tea Party rubric. (And to do so on the day of the Right to Life March is especially stupid and symbolic.) Second, they embolden their enemies, who now smell blood. And lastly, they muddied the brand.
As I joked on Twitter, what’s the bumper sticker version of today’s GOP platform?: We hate immigrants, shut down the government, AND won’t defend the lives of the unborn.
[T]he American public seems to have bought into the false notion that pro-lifers are on society’s fringe, and that the legislation that those pro-lifers are proposing is at odds with mainstream sentiment. This, evidently, is not the case. Consider the bill that the House jettisoned yesterday, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. That bill not only enjoyed 60 percent support from the public in general, but it had secured the endorsement of women and millennials — two groups that we are told will be put off from voting Republican by the party’s stance toward life. Indeed, as Katrina Trinko has noted over at the Daily Signal, the measure’s provisions were endorsed both by a solid majority of young people — “57 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds backed the 20-week ban on abortion,” Quinnipiac records — and by a majority of women. Even when female respondents knew “exactly what the exceptions were,” 59 percent gave it the thumbs up. Who exactly, one has to ask, are the “extremists” here?
With this level of support, it should have been reasonably easy for the GOP to plan its attack. Indeed, had they played their cards right, they could have secured a solid political win. Instead, by bringing up the idea and then so publicly punting on it, they have played right into their opponents’ hands. Across the media today we are seeing headlines reporting that “women revolted” against Republican men; that the GOP is scared of a “backlash” from the young and the trendy; and that the collapse of their motion has given Democrats “hope” that they can win back a millennial generation that is supposed to be pro-choice. None of this is accurate, of course. But who cares? Politics is often perception, and, that being so, this is a public-relations disaster. More than on any other issue, it is imperative that the Republican party deal carefully with pro-life legislation and that its leading lights ensure that potentially explosive disagreements occur behind closed doors and not on cable television. Yesterday, they failed…
[T]he way the House has gone about this attempt suggests both extraordinary incompetence and an alarming lack of mettle. It is one thing for Republicans to wait to pass genuinely controversial legislation until they enjoy unified government, but it is quite another for the party to pass on a popular, moderate, and straightforward bill that has both bipartisan and transgenerational appeal — especially when one considers that the “blowback” that the deserters supposedly fear is coming anyway.
I don’t care if the folks who fought the bill at the last minute were inventing excuses, had completely legitimate grievances, or were just bored. At some point, it’s the job of leadership to not have hugely embarrassing debacles that destroy goodwill between key constituents and lawmakers. At some point leadership shouldn’t reveal to the world that it couldn’t organize a shoe closet.
The job of leadership is to make sure disasters like this don’t happen. If they let it happen on easy legislation that is broadly popular (outside of American newsrooms, at least), what are they going to do when they need to really whip a vote on something unpopular in member districts?
If leadership isn’t giving female legislators the authority and influence they seek on this issue, rectify that. But everyone needs to get their act together and to get it together quickly. If this really was just a completely botched power play at the expense of unborn children and their supporters, the people responsible should pay consequences. Names should top a short list of incompetent politicians who should be kindly asked not to run for any office ever again. Those on the short list should be given the full understanding that failure to heed this warning will result in a vigorous primary fight…
As my colleague David Harsanyi has noted, we have a Republican Congress that doesn’t believe it’s competent enough to make a case against infanticide.
People like me — we “unplanned,” the millions of us — now live the first part of our lives outside the protection of the laws of these United States. Our lives, and very often our deaths, are instruments of the convenience of others. That was different, in my case, by a matter of a few months. It is impossible for me to know whether the woman who gave birth to me would have chosen abortion if that had been a more readily available alternative in 1972. I would not bet my life, neither the good nor the bad parts of it, on her not choosing it.
I write a great deal about taxes, budgets, fiscal issues, and regulation. But whether the top marginal federal income-tax rate is 39.5 percent or 34 percent, life will go on. Life goes on, except when it doesn’t. I never went through any naturalization ceremony — if I wasn’t an American the minute before I was born, I don’t see how I became one the minute after. If I’m to live under a government that considers my life nothing more than an accounting entry, then there are any number of states that might claim my allegiance. The Swiss at least know how to keep a proper ledger.
The House of Representatives and its Republican leadership had a chance to take a vote on the question of extending the protection of our nation’s laws to people like me, at least to some of us. The bill was, strangely enough, essentially identical to one the House had already passed. I do not expect that, even had it passed, the bill would have become law. Senate Democrats would have filibustered it, and though that filibuster might have been overcome, President Obama, who should know better, would have vetoed the bill. But it would have been something to have the House of Representatives at least take the vote on the question. I could respect the “No” voters, in a way. At least they’re willing to say what they think. But pulling the bill because Renee Ellmers and Jackie Walorski don’t have the guts or the principle to vote one way or the other? That is — let us all acknowledge the plain fact — cowardice.
This is about politics. Tragically incompetent politics. Even though a veto was imminent, you have to wonder: If the party representing the pro-life position, a party with a sizable historic majority, can’t pull together a vote on an issue as unambiguous and risk-free as this one, what are the chances if it coming to a consensus and offering compelling arguments on issues like health care or tax reform? Very little, I imagine.
“Here’s Renee Ellmers in 2013 speaking in support of bill identical to one she just helped scuttle”