As John McCormack reports, a few conservatives have complained that Republicans shouldn’t have voted for the Stupak amendment. Instead, goes the theory, they should have voted “present” in sufficient numbers to keep it from passing, thus forcing pro-life Democrats to vote against the underlying bill and potentially bringing it down. (Something like this view has been expressed on NRO too.) McCormack argues that this tactic would not have worked.
It would have had significant downsides. It would have created a serious problem among Republicans with many rank-and-file pro-lifers, who would have wondered why Republicans weren’t voting for an important pro-life measure. Pro-life Democratic congressmen would have felt betrayed: All year Republicans had been egging them on to fight the abortion subsidies in the bill, only to desert them in the middle of the fight? Democrats would have gotten a new talking point: They would have said that the vote proved that Republican objections to the bill were phony, since Republicans weren’t willing to support amendments to address those objections. Their charge that Republicans were merely playing political games to deny the Democrats a victory would look more credible. Press coverage about the Republicans’ insincerity would have been brutal.
And all of these reactions–from pro-life voters, pro-life Democratic congressmen, partisan Democrats, and the press–would have been justified. Oh, and one more thing: The likelihood that we would end up with a bill with abortion subsidies in it would be much higher.
I wonder what the advocates of this tactic think pro-life groups should have done? Should they have refrained from urging congressmen to cast a pro-life vote on the most important abortion-policy question before the House this year in the interest of affecting the outcome of a bill that is outside their bailiwick? Pro-life groups sometimes get slammed as arms of the Republican party, but people who want to craft strategy for Republicans ought to keep in mind that there are actually a lot of people in the party who care about abortion.
Thankfully, almost all congressional Republicans did the right thing.