Alarmed by off-year losses, traditional Republicans resist abortion restrictions | ET REALITY


Two days after Republicans across the country took a beating, dragged down by their opposition to abortion rights in off-year elections, GOP leaders on Capitol Hill appeared not to have gotten the memo.

House Republicans on Thursday attempted to use a financial services spending bill to undermine a District of Columbia law intended to protect employees from discrimination for seeking contraceptive or abortion services. Hidden within the otherwise dry bill was a line prohibiting the use of federal funds to enforce that law.

But minutes before the scheduled vote, Republicans were forced to withdraw the legislation from the floor. Republican lawmakers from competitive districts, concerned that their party’s opposition to abortion rights has alienated women, appeared unwilling to support the abortion-related restriction, undermining the number of votes needed for its passage.

It was the latest reflection of the deep divisions among Republicans that have prevented them, for the moment, from uniting around a strategy to avoid a government shutdown.

But this time, it was also an example of yet another disconnect: between a small group of Republicans in Congress who are trying to move away from an anti-abortion message that voters have rejected and a much larger coalition, including party leaders , which are doubling.

Tuesday’s election results made some Republicans in Congress realize what they already know and fear: that their party has alienated critical blocs of voters with its policies and messages, particularly on abortion. And the results reinforced his determination to resist such measures, even if it means breaking with the party at a critical moment in a high-stakes fight over federal spending.

“The American people are speaking very clearly: There is no appetite for a national abortion law,” Rep. John Duarte of California, a Republican who represents a district that President Biden won in 2020, said Thursday. “And there are enough of “We in the Republican Party are going to oppose it.”

Given the Republicans’ slim majority, which allows them to lose just four votes on their side if all Democrats show up and unite in opposition, that resistance could be decisive. Between resistance from top Republicans to the abortion provision in the financial services bill and growing discontent among the far-right flank that the legislation did not include a measure prohibiting funding for a new FBI building, it remained Of course the bill did not have the votes.

Duarte said he and other more central-leaning Republicans had warned party leaders that they would be inclined to oppose other spending bills that contained “language about abortion that is not central to a bill.” He said he would prefer those provisions be removed from the spending bills and voted on separately.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican who also represents a district that Biden won in 2020, told reporters that he, too, had opposed the financial services bill because of language related to abortion.

The rare pushback from members representing the political center of the Republican conference came two days after Ohio voters resoundingly approved a ballot measure enshrining abortion rights in the state Constitution.

The message that abortion remains the most important political issue for Democrats was clear even when abortion itself was not on the ballot. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, cruised to victory after criticizing his Republican opponent’s defense of the state’s near-total ban on abortion. And in Virginia, legislative candidates who opposed the 15-week abortion ban proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, prevailed.

In the House, however, gerrymandering has made most Republican seats so safe that lawmakers routinely cater to the far-right wing of their party, and a slim majority has given far-right lawmakers enormous influence. . The result has been that House Republicans continue to write laws that are out of step with a large majority of voters, including some of their own constituents, on social issues.

That has forced Republicans in competitive districts to take politically dangerous votes that many of them fear will cost them their seats, as well as the House majority, next year.

In September, Rep. Marc Molinaro, one of six New York Republicans representing districts that Biden won in 2020, opposed a farm spending bill because it included language that would restrict access to mifepristone, a widely used abortion pill. used.

That measure, which would fund the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, ultimately collapsed in the House of Representatives when other Republicans joined Molinaro in opposing it because of that specific restriction.

Democrats had already swung into action to criticize Republicans on the issue. After the Appropriations Committee approved the legislation, the House Democrats’ campaign arm accused five vulnerable Republicans on the panel who voted to advance the bill of “putting health and assets at risk.” livelihoods of countless women.”

Then, after the bill failed on the floor, House Democrats’ main super PAC slammed the politically vulnerable Republicans who supported it, calling them “anti-abortion extremists.”

On Thursday, Molinaro was among a small group of Republicans who resisted supporting the financial services bill because of the anti-abortion language it contained.

“There are approximately five to eight who do not support these provisions,” Molinaro said. “We must respect and love women who face such difficult decisions.”

Molinaro said he opposed a national ban on abortion. While he noted that he was against late-term abortions, he said he did not want to impose more restrictions on abortion at the federal level, including through spending bills.

“My constituents have reinforced my opinion, and the results in Ohio may well confirm that state’s position,” he added.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-South Carolina, has long criticized her party for not doing enough to show compassion toward women. She has said that Republican leaders are making Republicans like her from moderate districts “walk the walk” with pro-choice votes. Mace said Thursday that she was among the group of lawmakers Molinaro was referring to who would not support spending bills that quietly attempted to expand abortion restrictions.

“We can’t save lives if we can’t win elections,” Mace said. published in X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday night as the election results became clear. “We need to talk about common-sense restrictions on abortion while promoting greater access to contraceptives, including over-the-counter ones.”

Still, significant minefields remain ahead. House budget managers plan to introduce the bill next week that funds the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes multiple anti-abortion measures. Democrats argue those measures are aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood and making funding for Title X, the nation’s family planning program, less accessible. The legislation would also target programs that provide referrals or information about abortion.

While the bill does not single out Planned Parenthood by name, it includes a provision that would prohibit sending federal funds to “community providers” that “are primarily engaged in family planning, reproductive health, and related health care services.” It includes exceptions for abortions performed in cases of rape or incest, or in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.

It’s exactly the kind of legislation that traditional Republicans like Duarte warn against.

“Many of us in swing districts, many of us who want to be very respectful of where the American people are and where they are not on these social issues, we stand firm,” Duarte said.

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