Tuesday, May 10, 2022


Manu Raju and two CNN colleagues tell us:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slightly nudged the door open last week when he said "it's possible" the GOP could move to ban abortion nationwide.

Republicans on Monday quickly shut it.

... The reaction of the Republicans -- pouring cold water on legislative action on abortion -- underscores the GOP's heightened sensitivity on the issue....
So how did Republicans shut the door on this idea? How cold was the water they poured on it?
"I don't think it's really an appropriate topic for Congress to be passing a national law on," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of McConnell's leadership team.

"That wouldn't be my priority out of the gate," said Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri. "I think it would be better for states to debate this, allow it to breathe and for Congress to act where there's national consensus."

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate GOP leader, noted that the leaked draft Supreme Court ruling focused on allowing states to regulate abortion.

"I want to see the states have that opportunity and the authority to do so," Barrasso said when asked about legislating on the federal level.
So the story quotes three Republican senators and not one of them rules out a federal abortion ban categorically. Cornyn thinks it's a bad idea. Hawley thinks it's a bad idea "out of the gate," very much reserving the right to revisit the issue when, inevitably, it becomes clear that some states aren't passing conservatively correct abortion laws. Barrasso merely expresses a preference for state action.

Even Axios's Mike Allen, the most insider-y of insiders, knows this isn't the last word.
Republicans are deeply split on their abortion strategy, with top officials pushing restraint, even silence, while activist GOP candidates demand an all-out campaign for a national ban and harsher penalties.

... The GOP establishment's initial marching orders, in an NRSC memo leaked to Axios' Alayna Treene, counseled caution and even silence. But activist candidates and voters couldn't care less what the establishment wants — and see this as the moment to fulfill their lifelong dream of strict abortion bans, with few exceptions, and penalties for those carrying out abortions.

... One thing is certain about modern politics: Rarely does moderation or restraint prevail — especially on cultural, religious or identity issues. In fact, one truism of modern conservatism is: The more the establishment pushes something, the more the base recoils.
McConnell seemed to want the door open -- nothing he says is an accident:
“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell told USA Today when asked if a national abortion ban is “worthy of debate.”

“And if this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it’s possible,” he concluded.
With a caveat:
Yet he also promised he would not gut the Senate's filibuster rules to allow such a ban to pass with a simple majority, meaning 60 votes would be needed to act....
This is McConnell speaking to multiple Republican audiences. He wants to keep religious conservatives and the most rabid own-the-libs-at-all-costs right-wingers happy, so he's not going to rule out federal action, though he also stands up for the filibuster, which will mollify some in his voter base. (They know that many Democratic voters want to nuke the filibuster, so if we're against it, they have to be in favor of it.)McConnell thinks that's the sweet spot for now.

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson calls McConnell "the biggest threat to abortion rights in America," but the biggest threat is probably whoever comes after McConnell, who's 80 years old and won't be the Senate GOP leader forever. McConnell's replacement will be even further to the right than he is, and less incrementalist. The same goes for Kevin McCarthy's inevitable replacement in the House in a few years, given how feral his caucus is these days. My guess is that a Republican Congress, if that's what we have next year, will leave abortion to the states for a while, with McConnell ascribing inaction to the sacred filibuster. But eventually Republican House and Senate candidates will declare themselves shocked, shocked at blue-state protections for abortion rights. They'll run on a national ban as the only way to own those blue-state libs -- and McConnell and McCarthy might be gone by then, or on their way out the door. Mike Allen gets it, at least -- the direction of the GOP is incessantly rightward. That will be true until they start losing multiple elections badly, assuming that day ever comes.

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