Pelosi and AOC both want Dems to fall in line, but used different tactics. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Earlier this week the Democrats now running the House of Representatives strutted their stuff with passage of a bill aiming at the ancient liberal target of the gun background check “loophole” for private sales. It was passed by a 240-190 margin on what was basically a party-line vote. But before that vote, Republicans offered an unexpected “motion to recommit” the bill to add language instructing law enforcement officials to notify ICE if an “illegal immigrant” attempted to buy a gun. Twenty-six Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of that motion, and embarrassed House leaders added the language as an amendment to keep the bill from dying then and there.
Subsequently House Democrats met to discuss the incident (the second successful MTR maneuver by Republicans in the brief period since Nancy Pelosi took the gavel), amid some talk of amending the House rules either to eliminate MTRs or provide members with more time to consider them. But according to the Washington Post, recriminations broke out between members angry at the defections on the ICE vote, and defectors angry that Democrats from safer districts weren’t sufficiently sensitive to their political needs.
In a closed-door session, a frustrated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lashed out at about two dozen moderates and pressured them to get on board. “We are either a team or we’re not, and we have to make that decision,” Pelosi said, according to two people present but not authorized to discuss the remarks publicly.
Pelosi, according to the Post, focused much of her frustration on congressional veterans. But interestingly enough, the conflict was exemplified by an unhappy exchange between two House freshman from very different political environments:
[Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election.
Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said she told her colleagues that Democrats who side with Republicans “are putting themselves on a list.”
… Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.) — reacted sharply to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments and rose to urge her colleagues to respect the political reality of representing a swing district, according to multiple people present.
Ocasio-Cortez, of course, unseated a top member of the House Democratic leadership in a primary; her district is not competitive in general elections. Torres Small won one of the closest general election contests in the country.
But this wasn’t just a standard-brand left-versus-center ideological clash. AOC made a rather important counterpoint about the quandary the Republican amendment placed her and like-minded Democrats in, according to her spokesman Corbin Trent:
“She said that when activists ask her why she had to vote for a gun safety bill that also further empowers an agency that forcibly injects kids with psychotropic drugs, they’re going to want a list of names and she’s going to give it to them,” Trent said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Post interpreted this reference to a “list” as a threat to support primary challenges to the moderates. Whether or not that’s what AOC intended, there’s no question some of her House colleagues fear that she’ll help do to them what she did to Joe Crowley in her own insurgent primary challenge last year. And it infuriates those in swing districts that they might have to fight a two-front war to win reelection.
These tensions create some serious problems for Nancy Pelosi, who must cater to every faction in her caucus. One option for her is simply to impose party discipline and insist moderates bite the bullet on cleverly designed Republican poison-pill amendments. As she and others pointed out in the caucus meeting, Republicans managed to vote down similar Democratic gambits routinely when they controlled the House, adopting a “just say no” party line on all procedural motions from the other side of the aisle.
Alternatively, Pelosi may have to rethink how much value there really is for her caucus and party in “messaging” bills like the gun measure, which is about as likely to be considered in the Republican-controlled Senate as a bill to double Planned Parenthood’s funding. A symbolic gesture toward an important if presently unachievable goal like better gun regulation is a lot more effective if Democrats can agree in advance not to let themselves get distracted by Republican hijinks. The last thing they need is a public “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party,” with media hounds eagerly feeding on every morsel of conflict.
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After passing a bill through the Ohio House of Representatives that would ban abortion at six weeks, Republicans are considering legislation that would ban abortion completely in the state and make the procedure punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty.
House Bill 565 allows for no exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life. Under the law, foetuses would be classified as “unborn humans,” making abortion punishable under the Ohio criminal code. This means that a woman who receives an abortion and doctors who perform the procedure could face criminal penalties, ranging from a prison sentence to capital punishment.
State radio station WOSU notes that the bill is being considered by the Ohio House’s health committee and that it is unlikely to be voted on this year. HB 565 is just the latest in a string of anti-choice bills drafted by Ohio Republicans. Republicans’ “heartbeat” bill — which passed the House last week — was previously vetoed by Gov. John Kasich, who instead signed a 20-week ban into law.
“Ohio just took us one step closer to becoming a forced-birth nation,” #VOTERPROCHOICE cofounder Heidi Sieck said in a statement to Refinery29 on Monday. “Legislators in Ohio are banning abortion before women even know they’re pregnant — and we must stand up and speak out against this dangerous bill.” After Brett Kavanaugh ‘s contentious confirmation, the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority, meaning it is possible for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.
Ohio is far from the only state attacking women’s reproductive rights: Alabama and West Virginia have added language into their state constitutions that curtails public funds for abortion and gives foetuses the same rights as people.
Despite the assault on abortion from Republican legislatures, polls show most Americans are in favour of keeping Roe v. Wade. “This November, voters overwhelmingly saw the important role lawmakers serve in stopping attacks on their health and rights,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement to Refinery29.
“People in states like Ohio that do not have this critical backstop face a heightened threat to abortion access. We must fight harder than ever to protect every woman’s right to control her own body, life, and future. We know the majority of Americans want access to safe, legal abortion. It’s time politicians listen to us — access to safe, legal abortion is a human right.”
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D (KSFY) – The Trump Administration rolled back an Obama-era mandate on Friday, that allows women access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).The rollback creates two rules — allowing employers to opt out of insurance coverage for religious or moral objections.”Fifty-five million women benefit from this mandate and they could stand to lose their freebirth control,” said Samantha Spawn, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota. “The pill ranges anywhere from $5 to $55 per month. The most effective form of contraceptive is an IUD (inter-uterine device) and without insurance that can run about a thousand dollars.”The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) says the new rules, “will not affect over 99.9 percent of the 165 million women in the United States.” HHS added that the exemptions will likely only have an impact about 200 employers that have filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections.”The President believes freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental in this country,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, on Friday.And so do South Dakota’s lawmakers.Rep. Kristi Noem issued this statement to KSFY:“The Obama administration spent the last eight years chipping away at our religious liberties. I am thrilled to see President Trump uphold our constitutional rights and give family-owned businesses the freedom to live out their moral and religious beliefs.”Spokespersons for Senators Rounds and Thune said both of them also agree with the President’s decision.But advocates disagree.”Religious liberties should never be used as a license to discriminate, which is what is being done,” said Spawn.