Monday, in a 51-46 vote, the Senate failed to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have essentially banned abortion past 20 weeks. The bill was drafted with the knowledge that babies at that gestation feel pain and aborting them would be inhumane. Despite the science behind it, the bill, which needed 60 votes to pass, was never going to pass and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., knew this. Why he would present a bill for cloture vote, which lacked the nine necessary votes it needed, is absurd and shows how little the GOP, which has the majority in Congress, actually cares about eliminating or reducing abortions from the federal level.
That Republicans can’t pass a bill that furthers a fundamental piece of their platform is embarrassing — and yet, unsurprising.
Although two Republicans voted against the bill and three Democrats actually voted in favor of the ban, most remained with their respective party on the abortion issue. Of course, there is some outrage at Democrats: Do they, the "party of science," actually disbelieve, or worse, want to ignore, that a baby who moves and kicks in her mother’s womb at 20 weeks can’t feel pain? On a moral level, that any Democrat would vote against a bill that would keep tiny humans from pain seems unconscionable. But on a political level, Democrats have always stood firm on the platform of choice — and there they will remain with the exception of the brave three who broke rank.
Still, one wonders: What was the purpose of a cloture vote on a bill that didn’t have the votes it needed to pass? Some conjecture it was an educational opportunity — to show the world’s stage what Republicans have always known: Science shows babies feel pain; abortion is even more abhorrent than we thought.
But the chances of many learning from this bill, or being surprised by its scientific footnotes, are slim. Some will take away something new but not enough to have made the failed vote worth it.
So if McConnell knew the bill wouldn’t pass and that very few people would learn much from it, the most obvious answer for even offering a bill that was doomed to fail is that tallying the votes is either a long-term strategy for pro-life organizations or simply a grandstanding opportunity — or possibly both. With one lazy cloture vote, and a bill that shows at least a little more promise than its failed predecessors, McConnell gets the best of both worlds: He gets some accolades for putting it out there, but none of the heat when it fails, because all the pro-life organizations will simply point the finger at the Democrats.
Granted, McConnell needed a handful of Democratic votes for it to pass, but persuading them is his job — not theirs. Meaning, Democrats weren’t going to arrive at the decision to vote for it solo. If pro-life organizations put McConnell up to this, it was their job to lobby the handful of soft, so-called “pro-life Democrats” and persuade them to vote yes on a bill that would preserve the humanity of the unborn. That’s not politics, that’s just petitioning the government for a “redress of grievances,” or in other words, lobbying.
The fact that the GOP, which boasts a majority, couldn’t even persuade a few Democrats to vote for a bill which describes what biology has known all along, is frustrating but not surprising. They can’t vote to defund Planned Parenthood despite it being under federal investigation. If Republicans are going to curb abortion, they need to either inspire an army of bipartisan support so the bill passes or forget about proposing bills like this altogether and approach it from a different, altogether more creative, style of legislation.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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