Democrats burdened by voter fatigue with Barack Obama and suffering two successive midterm debacles have decided to return to an old line of attack that they last rode to a massive defeat and loss of the US Senate. Apparently, they have not learned a lesson from 2014, and continue to learn the wrong lessons of 2012.
Earlier this week, the Senate took up consideration of a bill that would crack down on human trafficking – a scourge that overwhelmingly victimizes women. Included in the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act since its inception is language identical to the Hyde amendment, barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Congress has attached this language to every budget since 1974, including during Democratic majorities under control by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
The bill has twelve Democrats listed as co-sponsors, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Heidi Heitkamp (ND). It passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on unanimous voice vote on March 2, and was widely expected to pass.
Instead, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid demanded that the Hyde language be removed, even though the bill had included the language well before its unanimous approval and support by Judiciary’s Democrats. Prompted by the abortion industry’s advocacy group NARAL, Reid claimed that Democrats were blindsided by the inclusion of the Hyde language.
Lead sponsor Sen. John Cornyn scoffed at that explanation. “That presupposes that none of their staff briefed their senators on what was in the legislation, that nobody read a 68-page bill and that senators would vote for a bill — much less co-sponsor it — without reading it and knowing what’s in it,” Cornyn responded at a press conference. “None of that strikes me as plausible.”
Nevertheless, Democrats staged a filibuster, on a bill that aims to protect primarily women from human trafficking, in order to demand the removal of language that has appeared in more than 40 annual budgets. It’s an argument that even liberal commentator Eleanor Clift acknowledges that Democrats “lost … 40 years ago.” As Mollie Hemingway points out from across the aisle, the bar on federal funding for abortions is widely popular, with two-thirds of American voters supporting it, and 68 percent of women agreeing in the 2010 Quinnipiac poll.
In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced over the weekend that Senate business would not proceed until the trafficking bill got its floor vote. That includes the confirmation vote for Loretta Lynch, nominated four months ago to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General last November, but sidelined by Reid in the lame-duck session after the midterms. So far, McConnell has stuck to his word, demanding that Democrats allow a floor vote on the trafficking bill first, and that has Reid and his caucus hopping mad.
On Wednesday, they broke out the war-on-women meme again in response. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) used the term explicitly -- accusing Republicans of making women step backward for progress. “I call that a war on women,” Murray said at a press event. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) ripped the “extreme right wing of the Republican Party” for the impasse, without explaining how several Democrats voted to pass the bill out of committee – four of whom voted to end the filibuster.
Even Hillary Clinton got into the act. She declared from the relative safety of Twitter that the demand to have a vote first on the trafficking bill that passed without opposition in Judiciary amounted to a “Congressional trifecta against women today” in part, because it will delay confirmation of the “1st African American woman AG, for longer than any AG in 30 years.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) took the hint and implied that the delay for Lynch came from racial animus rather than Democratic obstruction of a widely supported bill. Lynch, Durbin declared, was being “asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar."
All of this is sheer nonsense. It’s demagoguery of the worst kind, especially since the first choice to put off Lynch’s nomination came from Senate Democratic leadership, in which Durbin ranks second. They chose to delay Lynch’s nomination to use up the remaining legislative calendar to pass what became known as the “cromnibus” bill, which allowed Democrats to retain control over most of the rest of the FY2015 budget, even though they had just lost a national election, and Republicans had won control of both chambers of Congress. Durbin should look in the mirror before making comparisons to Rosa Parks and implying racial animosity where none exists.
The same is true for the supposed “war on women” claims reappearing on the part of Democrats who are blocking better protection for women victimized by human trafficking. They tried to use the “war on women” attack line in the 2014 cycle and ended up with a margin in the exit polls (four points) barely outside the margin of error. Democrats believed that this demagoguery helped Barack Obama win a second term in 2012, but exit polling from that cycle showed that support from women for Obama actually decreased slightly from 2008.
Now we have Democrats blocking popular legislation whose benefits disproportionately benefit women, over opposition to a ban on federal funds for abortions that is also overwhelmingly popular among women, and declaring that McConnell’s fight to get a floor vote for the bill that no Democrats opposed in committee amounts to a “war on women.”
It’s Democrats who are waging a war – not a war on women, but a war on common sense. They’re doubling down on a failed strategy in order to protect their own extremist position for subsidized abortion on demand after already making Lynch a pawn for their power-politics strategies. If they want to commit political suicide again, McConnell should let them do it.
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