WASHINGTON — It took only hours for Republicans to criticize Sen. Lindsey Graham’s 15-week national abortion ban bill on Tuesday.
From the halls of Congress to the campaign trail, Republicans attacked the bill as a distraction that divides the GOP and reminds voters that most of them see the party as too extreme on abortion.
“Bad idea,” said Chris Mottola, a Republican strategist and ad creator. “It opens up a political sore. The political environment was coming back to economic issues. It further nationalizes an issue that works against Republicans in general.”
Graham introduced his bill, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks in most cases, just eight weeks before the midterm elections, and at a time when some Republican candidates have been quick to distance themselves from their past positions on abortion.
Now, it is Republican leaders, rank-and-file lawmakers and political strategists who are distancing themselves from Graham. Although his bill doesn’t stand a chance with Democrats in control of the House, Senate and White House, he immediately gave Democrats a case for arguing that Republicans will ban abortion if they win power in Washington.
Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, distanced himself from the federal legislation.
“Most members of my conference prefer this to be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
On the other side of the Republican spectrum, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, rejected Graham’s proposal, signaling her support for federal abortion protections. Similarly, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said “a much better approach” would be her bipartisan legislation that would essentially codify Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that was overturned this year.
Collins declined to comment on Graham’s political wisdom in introducing his legislation to the forefront of midterms.
Instead of creating a point of consensus for GOP candidates, Graham’s plan puts them on the spot, and on the defensive, instead of attacking President Joe Biden on issues that favor them more, GOP strategists said.
“Trust me, Republicans want to talk about the economy and Biden,” said an aide to the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reflect the re-election campaign’s thinking. “We don’t want this debate. It doesn’t help.”
John Sellek, a top Republican strategist in Michigan, noted that the state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tudor Dixon, has been trying to downplay the abortion issue, which is seen as benefiting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“Whereas the Republican gubernatorial candidate is desperately trying to shift the media discussion back to inflation, education, and crime, and congressional committees are running ads in multiple districts hitting Democrats on spending, Graham’s actions are virtually inexplicable politically,” Sellek said.
Some Republicans were more circumspect, arguing that it remains to be seen whether Graham’s bill gives more to Republicans or Democrats.
“Look, it’s a steroid shot in the arm to convert the base in November,” Republican strategist John Porter said. in oscillating states.
The proposal offers Republican candidates for the House and Senate a measure that some conservatives hope will offset a surge in polling for Democrats after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision struck down abortion protections in June.
But as McConnell’s comments indicated, Graham’s federal bill presented a fundamental message problem: It ran counter to Republican talking points that states should decide the issue.
The bill, which would not affect stricter state limitations on abortion, would ban the procedure after 15 weeks, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.
A physician would be required to determine the gestational age of the fetus, including through the use of “medical examinations and tests as a reasonably prudent physician, informed of the case and the medical conditions involved, would consider necessary to make an accurate determination of gestational age. ”
While Republicans have criticized the political timing of Graham’s legislation, surveys generally indicate that a 15-week pregnancy limit for abortion is supported by the majority as long as there are exceptions for rape, incest and maternal health.
Graham cast his measure as a contrast to Democrats’ support for a federal law protecting abortion rights.
“After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Democrats in Congress have come together to support pro-abortion legislation that allows abortion up to the moment of birth,” Graham said in a statement. “I think the Democratic proposal is radical and one that Americans will ultimately reject. Our legislation is a responsible alternative, providing exceptions for rape, incest, and the life and physical health of the mother.”
But Democrats and abortion-rights groups say Graham is misrepresenting his position and only support late-term abortions if a medical professional determines the mother’s health is in jeopardy. They tore up the bill, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling it “grossly out of step with what Americans believe” in a statement.
Graham’s bill comes at a time when some Republican candidates are fighting for delete past positions favoring a total ban on abortion and seeking safer political ground. Republican operatives have warned the party’s candidates that voters see the party as too extreme on abortion ahead of the midterm elections.
The data supports it.
Voters view Republicans as more extreme than Democrats on abortion (51% to 32% in battleground states), according to a poll by WPA Intelligence, a GOP political consulting firm. The poll showed that 41% of likely voters are more likely to vote for a Democrat and 24% are more likely to vote for a Republican because of Dobbs’ decision.
GOP operatives have reason to view Graham’s 15-week ban bill as a compromise between factions of the GOP, one that opposes abortion in all circumstances and one that prefers fewer restrictions. Although the federal legislation is less strict than the state laws and proposals that have alienated many voters, it is still not a popular idea.
The swift response from Democrats and pro-choice groups on Tuesday indicated an eagerness to keep the issue on voters’ minds for the next two months.
“Congressional Republicans who oppose abortion rights are showing us exactly what they plan to do if they gain power: Pass a national abortion ban,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which supports abortion rights. . “They have seen the horrors and dangerous consequences of abortion bans in states across the country and made it their national agenda. Cruelty is the point, and we must take them at their word.”
On Tuesday, Graham appeared to draw criticism from all sides, particularly from Republicans who say he has given Democratic candidates a gift.
“Unless our Senate candidates already have that seat, it just highlights how much more extreme they are for this seat,” said one of the top Republican strategists involved in the Senate races. “Stupid, just stupid.”
Republican senators avoided direct criticism of Graham while stating their preference to speak on other issues.
“For my part, I want to focus on the inflation numbers that came out today, the imminent possible rail workers strike it’s what people are talking about,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, RN.C. “People who have to spend $113 instead of $100 to get ready to take their kids back to school, that’s the way we should focus.”
When asked if he supported Graham’s legislation, Tillis drew attention to the fact that Graham once supported a 20-week pregnancy limit on abortions that he has now lowered by five weeks.
“I have supported the 20 weeks, I have not looked[la nueva legislación]Tillis said.[thenewlegislation”Tillissaid[thenewlegislation”Tillissaid