Where Things Stand: Republicans’ Abortion Flailing Shows Up In McCarthy’s Caucus Chaos Too

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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 30: Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) speaks to reporters on her way to a House Republican Caucus meeting at the Capitol on May 30, 2023 in Washington, DC. A vote on the Fiscal Responsibility Act is expect... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 30: Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) speaks to reporters on her way to a House Republican Caucus meeting at the Capitol on May 30, 2023 in Washington, DC. A vote on the Fiscal Responsibility Act is expected on Wednesday evening in the House. The legislation is the result of a bipartisan debt ceiling deal that has been agreed to between U.S. President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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My colleague Kate Riga and I have been tracking the various ways in which Republicans are freaking out about how their party’s longstanding and extreme positioning on abortion will impact them in coming elections. Kate wrote an excellent piece earlier this week on Republican 2024 candidates’ flailing as they repeatedly and publicly struggle to pick any specific footing on the issue, aware that restrictive policy platforms and abortion bans in general have proven themselves to be wildly unpopular among voters and will likely hurt them in the upcoming presidential general election.

I won’t unpack all the evidence that supports the notion that Republicans are losing the battle of public opinion on abortion here, but to catch up, I’d recommend reading this, this and this.

But, this week, the omnipresent dilemma and intra-party rift appeared in a new venue.

As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) deals with the chaos of a dysfunctional majority after hardliners ground legislating to a halt this week, his leadership team has reportedly been meeting with centrist Republicans to keep them apprised of what bills they plan to push next week if/when the Freedom Caucus stops its tantrum-throwing over the debt ceiling deal.

One of those bills is focused on cutting a Biden administration gun regulation and another is about abortion. That one seeks to make limitations on taxpayer funds for abortion care — often referred to as the Hyde Amendment — permanent. The Hyde Amendment is a perennial football in Congress, passed and repealed and altered repeatedly depending on which party has control.

But the private meeting to discuss the upcoming docket didn’t go well, according to Politico. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who is a survivor of rape and who has repeatedly opposed abortion restrictions that don’t include exemptions, asked Republican leadership point-blank why they were even considering bringing forward such a measure right now.

Per Politico:

“Why the hell are we doing this?” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) asked Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), according to two House Republicans familiar with the meeting.

Things got more heated from there, the two Republicans added: Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) confronted Mace for taking to TV and blasting other Republicans for their positions on abortion. Mace responded that the party is losing the battle for public opinion on the issue, arguing that tacking further to the right would hurt the centrists who handed the GOP the majority.

The Hyde Amendment legislation is now reportedly not on the GOP’s list of bills for next week, but the private spat amidst a broader party rift that McCarthy is already struggling to navigate is, perhaps, illustrative of just how deep heartburn about Republicans’ unpopular positioning on the issue goes.

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