Republican sponsors of H.R. 3, the divisive abortion-limiting bill that passed in the House on Wednesday by a 251-175 vote, are preparing to introduce the legislation to a Democratic-controlled Senate where even they admit its chances of advancing are slim to none.
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) remained optimistic that the bill would serve a vital message for pro-life supporters even as the Obama administration threatened to veto the legislation if it reached the president’s desk.
“Every time we’ve attempted to advance the pro-life cause through legislation it has always started out as an uphill battle,” Wicker told TPM. “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to get to 60 votes. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
The bill seeks a permanent ban on federal funding for abortions including rolling back key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform bill which passed last year and one of the president’s most hard-fought victories. Critics maintain that the bill would deprive low-income women and minorities of access to abortions and eliminate tax-credits to struggling small businesses.
But given the harsh political reality the bill faces, the latest Republican effort to limit abortion seems less like a priority for this Congress and more like political cover ahead of the impending 2012 election.
“Elections have consequences,” Wicker said. “We wouldn’t be here without the November 2010 election. I think this is among the very important issues that the American people will be called upon to look at in the 2012 election.”
The true test for Republicans who are determined to bring H.R. 3 to center-stage will come in the next few months. Some proponents maintain that “If you don’t move the ball down the field,” as Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) says, “it’s never going to get moved.”
Others favor a more elaborate technique in the Senate by seeking Democratic votes in favor of H.R. 3 in exchange for Republican votes on the upcoming debt-ceiling hike confrontation.
Senator Wicker demurred, saying it’s unlikely that he will tie the bill to the debt-ceiling issue. But, at least for the moment, it remains to be seen what other avenues he has at his disposal to advance the legislation.
Perhaps, as Schmidt says, “he might get lucky, and we hope he will.”
Igor Bobic is the assistant editor of Talking Points Memo, helping oversee the site's coverage of politics and policy in Washington. While originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor feels best at home on the beaches of Southern California. He can be reached at email@example.com.