Senate Republicans Annoyed By Their Own Inconsistency On Contraceptives

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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) accompanied by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) (L) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on May 1, 2024 in Washington, DC. Republican Senators joined Sen. Tom Cotto... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) accompanied by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) (L) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on May 1, 2024 in Washington, DC. Republican Senators joined Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to denounce pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses and called on school administrations around the country to act against anti-semitism. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of a bill that would’ve put senators on record on contraceptives during an election year when reproductive rights have taken center stage as a mobilizing issue among all voters.

In a 51-39 vote, Senate Republicans blocked a motion to proceed to a floor vote on the Right to Contraception Act, which sought to federally protect access to birth control and other forms of contraception. It needed 60 votes to overcome the filibuster and proceed to a vote. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) were the only Republicans to vote with Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) switched his vote to a “no” at the last minute, a procedural maneuver so that Democrats can bring up the bill again in the future.

Access to contraceptives is a near-universally popular position among voters of both parties and Republicans had been avoiding the issue ahead of Election Day. But Donald Trump scuttled that when he, apparently mistakenly, said last month that he was “looking at” restrictions on contraceptives and would soon unveil “something that you’ll find interesting” on birth control.

His campaign almost immediately put out a statement saying the former president misspoke on the lightning rod issue, saying Trump thought he was responding to a question about abortion pills. Trump himself posted on Truth Social hours later declaring, “I HAVE NEVER, AND WILL NEVER ADVOCATE IMPOSING RESTRICTIONS ON BIRTH CONTROL, or other contraceptives.”

In the wake of all that, several Republicans put out public statements insisting they support access to contraceptives, even though prominent Republicans, and Trump himself, have supported restricting contraceptives for years — a position that is primarily only popular among hardcore anti-abortion voters.

Schumer quickly announced he would hold a vote on a bill to protect contraceptives that was first introduced by Democrats in 2022, after the Dobbs ruling. It is one of several bills that Schumer hopes to bring to the floor for votes in the coming weeks and months, to bring attention to the fact that the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has put all forms of reproductive health care at risk, not just abortion.

Some Republican senators insisted after the Wednesday vote that they blocked its advancement to keep Democrats from scoring any political points off a vote on the bill itself.

“This is a show vote. It’s not serious,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told CNN. “Plus, it’s a huge overreach. It doesn’t make any exceptions for conscience. … It’s a phony vote because contraception, to my knowledge, is not illegal. It’s not unavailable.”

But behind the scenes, the conference has been at odds over how to actually handle the vote, with some, like Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) even suggesting that Republicans should vote to advance the bill with Democrats. Per Punchbowl News:

Republicans sparred during their closed-door lunch over whether to vote to advance the Democratic contraception bill in a bid to go on offense over the issue, according to multiple attendees.

The goal, these members said, would be to force votes on amendments and potentially a side-by-side vote on Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act. This is the GOP alternative to the Democrats’ bill. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was among those making the case to vote in favor of advancing the Democratic bill.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who’s running for GOP leader, then chimed in and suggested that Republicans should all stick together if the plan is to vote to advance the measure.

Frustration and handwringing over how exactly to protect themselves from having to go on record on an issue they’d rather avoid during an election year summer lingered even after it was clear Democrats’ efforts to advance the bill would fail Wednesday. TPM caught up with Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in the hallway after he voted and he lamented that “nobody brought anybody together.” Here’s his full quote:

I think we ought to have a position. As a conference, we ought to be ahead of the game. We ought to come up with a position when — if the Democrats have a bill, right? And so then we can … as a conference, make a decision. Is it something that we can fix through the amendment process? If we all work together, can we get the amendments, at least the amendments to vote, and then we can still decide … whether we go forward or not, but this process where we are is, there’s no conversation. We’re simply going to let the vote happen. Nobody brought anybody together to try to find out what our conference position is. We have no commitment to get a amendment votes. So how do you how do you ever go forward in a position like that?

But despite all of that hemming and hawing, he said he is confident that voters will be able to make sense of Republicans’ various muddied positioning on the topic.

“No, I think I think our voters actually know where they stand,” he said, when asked if he thinks voters might be confused about the GOP’s position on reproductive rights.

“I think, first of all, I think our voters support contraception. I think our voters support IVF. I have an ad up for today. I put an ad up right now. I support IVF. I have a daughter going through IVF right now,” he said.

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for paulw paulw says:

    If I understand this correctly, they support the purpose of the bill, but they voted against the bill now so they wouldn’t be in a position to vote for the bill later?

    I think this means they’re more afraid of losing the let’s-kill-more-women-and-children vote than they are of losing the sane-people vote.

  2. Avatar for gr gr says:

    Goopers and the fetus people have never ever recognized their moral inconsistencies.
    “Reverence for life” my ass. Kill the mom to save a fetus. Fry some mental defective in the electric chair. Kill Gaza people – or Israelis, take your choice.

  3. Keep at it D Senators. Nail these f"*kers to the wall. Put up or shut up should be the motto. (Sorry, I grew up in Philly, that was as polite as I could be.)

  4. Avatar for tpr tpr says:

    But despite all of that hemming and hawing, [Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)] said he is confident that voters will be able to make sense of Republicans’ various muddied positioning on the topic.

    GOPers want to simultaneously be free to play wind-sock in their own individual elections, while preserving the illusion that they will unite to shut down birth control.

    A tight-rope so thin it should be 2-dimensional. But there is an ocean of money dedicated to helping them walk it.

    The Age of Organized Money has many such marvels in store for fans of the law of the excluded middle.

  5. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) . … It’s a phony vote because contraception, to my knowledge, is not illegal. It’s not unavailable.”

    Legal and available now, senator, in large part because the cult doesn’t yet have the votes/power to make it illegal. The only way to assure contraception will remain legal is to vote Democratic.

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