If you thought House Speaker John Boehner’s noncommittal take on defunding Planned Parenthood was bad, just wait ‘til you hear what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s been up to. The Daily Caller reports that on Friday, he employed procedural trickery to block numerous amendments to a bill funding the Highway Trust Fund for the next six years, including one that would have defunded Planned Parenthood:
McConnell used a tactic called “filling the tree,” made popular by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he was majority leader to block Republicans from being able to offer amendments to Democratic bills. “Filling the Tree” is when the allotted time for amendments is loaded by the leader, generally with small, insignificant measures favored by the majority leader, who controls the process, crowding out everyone else.
“Filling the tree” was roundly decried by Republicans when Democrats controlled the Senate because it blocked their ability to offer any amendments, popular on a bipartisan basis or not, to any legislation the Senate was considering. McConnell ran and was reelected to his Senate seat on returning the Senate to “regular order” after years of tight control and power consolidation under the Democrats. Now he is using the same tactic against his own party.
Hot on the heels of his epic takedown of McConnell for betraying the GOP’s base in similar ways on other issues, presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (pictured right) condemned his backward priorities:
There are a host of amendments that the American people are focused on, things like defunding Planned Parenthood after the gruesome video…. The majority leader doesn’t want to vote on that. That’s actually something the American people are focused on.
Not to worry, though! McConnell instead promised a separate bill defunding Planned Parenthood… never mind that the whole point of attaching it to the highway bill was that it would have taken just 51 votes, whereas a separate bill would need 60 to overcome a filibuster.
At The Federalist, Ben Domenech grimly notes the full extent of the disconnect between the values of Republican voters and those of top Republican officeholders:
For conservatives, the Highway Bill is a bad thing that could be the vehicle for something politically useful. For Republicans, this is not the case. The passage of a Planned Parenthood defunding amendment would set up a direct conflict with the White House over the issue, and undercut McConnell’s priority of passing a Highway Bill with an Ex-Im resurrection attached to it – two things that are not a priority at all for Republican voters, mind you, but for the corporatist constituency the Republican Party actually serves, are near the top of the list.
And that is why the Republican Party exists.
In other words, it doesn’t exist for the purpose of restoring the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equal unalienable rights to those denied it, such as the preborn. Not anymore—at least not at its highest levels. It was originally founded to do just that; its platform still gives lip service to abolishing abortion, and there are still individual Republican statesmen across national, state, and local office who honorably and sincerely dedicate themselves to the cause.
Indeed, Paul Strand at CBN has noted the “strange[ness]” of “how much better the pro-life movement is doing with lawmakers out in the states,” with “[s]tate legislatures hav[ing] passed hundreds of anti-abortion bills in the last couple of years.”
Why? Partly because money talks, with the business interests behind measures like the highway bill speaking the language much more loudly. Partly because political consulting is largely a racket, and Washington, D.C., is teeming with hacks lecturing Republicans – based on no actual knowledge beyond their own assumptions and the personal biases of the elites they hang out with and get their news from – that being too pro-life is politically dangerous. And partly because the GOP figures—not entirely irrationally—that they can get pro-lifers to settle for table scraps because hey, where else are they gonna go? The fanatically pro-abortion-on-demand party on the other side of the aisle?
If there is a silver lining to be found here, it’s that the story of the GOP’s birth may also point to the right to life’s resurgence. The founding Republicans didn’t just get up one day and randomly decide they wanted to abolish slavery, but rose from the ashes of the Whig Party, which failed to satisfy its pro-abolition constituents as slavery’s importance intensified, and found little in more pedestrian issues to unify those who remained.
The pro-life movement has the enduring support of the American majority. It is well-organized, its passion is second to none, and its patience for political negligence will not last forever. Eventually, there is no question that we will abolish abortion—the only question is whether the Republican Party will heed history’s example and truly dedicate itself to being a part of it, or become a historical footnote remembered mostly for preceding the preborn’s true liberators.