Abortion politics agitate Senate Republicans 2023

Abortion politics might undermine Republicans’ prospects of reclaiming the Senate in 2024, as some Republicans believe happened in last year’s midterm election.

Republicans disagree on how the federal government should limit abortion.

Some GOP politicians want to outlaw abortion nationwide, while others want to leave it to the states.

Republican senators expect their party to debate the matter in the months before the next election.

“This issue is not going away,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), adding that there is no unanimity “at the moment” within the Senate GOP conference on Congress’s role in the national abortion debate.

“I think we’ll discuss it a lot. We’re pro-life and want our policies to reflect that. “How that looks right now is still up for debate,” he said.

Republican presidential candidates are already being tested on whether a nationwide abortion ban should take effect at 15 weeks, six weeks, or perhaps earlier.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is considering a presidential run, gave multiple replies over several days regarding what kind of federal abortion restriction he would sign into law.

Last week in New Hampshire, Scott first declined to say whether he would sign a 15-week abortion ban, then said he would “definitely” sign a 20-week ban, then said he would sign “the most conservative pro-life legislation that they can get through Congress.”

Republican abortion opponents cringed at Scott’s changing answers.

“I think they ought to say what their conviction is,” remarked one anonymous lawmaker on the 2024 presidential primary. “Primary voters want to know someone is pro-life and fights for it. They don’t want wishy-washy.”

After signing a six-week state abortion ban behind closed doors, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) held a rally at Liberty University in Virginia and barely mentioned abortion.

Former President Trump, who seldom misses an opportunity to bash an opponent, has avoided discussing Florida’s six-week abortion ban.

In a recent interview, former Vice President Mike Pence declined to comment on South Carolina’s proposal to execute abortion-defying women. Pence’s spokeswoman later said he opposes it.

Some Republicans interpreted the triumph of Democratic-allied Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race earlier this month as an early harbinger of another abortion rights reaction next year.

In an interview with The Hill earlier this month, Wisconsin Republican strategist Brandon Scholz said the state race showed the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, continues to energize voters.

He referred to Justice Samuel Alito’s draft abortion opinion, which leaked in May. The Supreme Court is still searching for the leaker.

Republicans are preparing for a Washington abortion discussion that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) avoided before last year’s midterm election.

McConnell assured voters that Republicans would not try to implement a countrywide abortion ban if they took control of the Senate and House in 2022 and criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) 15-week restriction.

In September, McConnell told reporters Graham had proposed a federal abortion ban, not GOP leaders.

“In terms of scheduling, I think most of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” he said.

“I think it’s safe to say there aren’t 60 votes there at the federal level, no matter who happens to be in the majority,” the GOP leader said.

Despite McConnell’s efforts, both parties’ strategists believe abortion rights dominated last year’s races. Democratic campaign commercials nationwide stressed it.

Trump blasted GOP leaders for losing a Senate seat and not winning enough House seats.

“The ‘abortion issue’, poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother, that lost large number of voters,” he wrote on Truth Social in January.

Despite losing in Wisconsin earlier this month, Senate Republicans look ready to fight over abortion legislation again.

Graham told The Hill on Tuesday that he will resubmit his 15-week abortion ban.

On the other side of the intraparty argument, moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) to codify the Roe v. Wade right to an abortion before 24 weeks.

“I believe that there is a need for codification of Roe and that’s why last Congress we worked to put together a bill that we saw that reflected exactly that,” Murkowski said. “We would like to see it advance.”

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