With congress proving increasingly dysfunctional and unable to reach a compromise to even fund the government for more than a few weeks – its most basic duty – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided now was the perfect time to introduce legislation on what’s perhaps the most polarizing issue in American politics.
The Hill reported late Wednesday that Sen. McConnell “moved to bring up a 20-week abortion ban, paving the way for a procedural vote expected on Monday,” writes Jordain Carney writes. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sponsored the bill.
“I’m pleased to have filed cloture on this bill to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain …And I look forward to voting for it early next week,” McConnell said.
Republicans are targeting doctors with this legislation by imposing fines and up to five years in prison for any abortion performed after the 20 week mark. The bill includes exceptions for rape and incest, but crucially not the health of the mother.
But it’s all semantics and theater. Republicans need 60 votes in the senate to clear the filibuster hurdle and advance the bill to the floor for an up or down vote. With a razor thin 51 seat majority, and Democrats united on the issue, the bill isn’t expecting to go anywhere.
Passing the bill, however, is not the goal. Sen. McConnell is bringing up the bill now to both reignite the GOP’s wavering social conservative base ahead of the 2018 election, and to paint Democrats as unwilling to compromise.
With passionate advocates on both sides of the issue driving their parties’ respective responses to any legislative push, the GOP’s proposed 20 week cutoff has the hint of a magnanimous first offer in what would be a grand bargain on abortion rights in the United States.
Democrats, however, aren’t fooled. Any attempt to enshrine a cutoff period into law serves only to undermine the constitutionally protected right for women to decide what’s best for their bodies and their family.
It would also effectively establish a beach head of precedent for the Republicans’ long desired assault on abortion rights by way of incrementalism. Create a ban at 20 weeks this year, the thinking goes, and then next year, try for 18 weeks, and so on.
Even under the best of circumstances, when bipartisanism is the rule, not the exceedingly rare exception, a bill like this would be a long shot and require visionary leadership from both parties in congress, and the White House.
Sadly, these are no where near the best of circumstances on any front.