Senate Democrats are launching a preemptive strike against the latest GOP effort to strengthen bans on abortion, and are vowing to make Republicans continue to pay a political price among female voters for pursuing the issue, after a string of awful quotes from Republican officials have revealed the political perils it carries for the GOP.
Marco Rubio is rumored to be considering whether to become the lead sponsor on legislation that would ban abortion nationally after 20 weeks, which would bring national media attention to the measure. Social conservatives (who play a key role in presidential primary politics) are urging him to do so, after his championing of immigration reform deeply angered the right.
But in an interview this morning, a key member of the Democratic leadership, Senator Patty Murray, said any such effort is dead on arrival in the Senate.
“I can tell you this: No matter who introduces it, it is not going anywhere in the Senate,” Murray said. “We are not going to let it come up in the Senate. There is no reason for it. This is settled law. We are not going to be sidetracked by a debate on women’s health yet again.”
Anonymous Senate Dem aides had previously said the anti-abortion push is an all-but-certain non-starter, but Murray’s on-the-record declaration makes it official: The measure will not get any floor debate or see the light of committee.
The increasing attention to the bill is putting Senator Rubio in a difficult spot. When the Weekly Standard reported without any clear sourcing that Rubio was going to take it up, conservatives rejoiced. But a Rubio aide then made it clear that this hadn’t been decided. Now conservatives want Rubio to come through.
But Dems are already laying plans to aggressively attack Rubio — or any other Republican — who sponsors the legislation, by casting it as the latest sign of the GOP’s refusal to moderate on cultural issues and matters affecting women’s health.
“He has to decide whether he wants that kind of attention drawn to him — the kind of attention that says, `what are you doing’?” Murray said of Rubio, adding that it would undermine efforts by Republicans to move past the abortion debate that ensnared the GOP in 2012: “They haven’t gotten over this. It didn’t work last time; it’s not going to work this time. Taking away a law that has been in place for 50 years and going back to a time of our grandmothers is not something we should be doing.”
Indeed, as Buzzfeed reports, even some female Republican officials and strategists are worried that the push could result in a string of new missteps from male GOP politicians. Dems recently hammered away at GOP Rep. Trent Franks’ suggestion that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” and they made similar hay out of ill-considered abortion quotes last year, such as Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” formulation.
Conservatives are pushing Republicans to continue to champion the issue, arguing that polls show support for bans on late abortions. Pressed to respond to the polling, Murray said that such polls reflect what people want for their “own lives.” She added: “If you ask them, do you want a bunch of Republican men and women making their decisions, they absolutely do not want that. They want this to be a decision that’s between them, their partner, their religion, and their doctor.” (quote fixed)
At any rate, if Rubio does take up this anti-abortion crusade, it appears he may get drawn into a culturally-charged national battle, one that could have consequences for the GOP’s ability to broaden its appeal to women and evolve beyond social issues that continue to preoccupy the GOP base.
UPDATE: A number of folks have objected to the previous headline’s use of “dead on arrival” in this context, so I’ve changed it.