Republicans’ Opposition to Contraception Bill Is a Joke

Senators Scott And Lee Discuss Border Security Funding On Capitol Hill

Mike Lee, MAGA warrior.
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“Messaging bills” are the meat and potatoes of a divided and polarized Congress. With Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate and White House, each party is in a position to veto the other’s legislative priorities, and in all but a few cases, that’s what happens. So to dramatize the stakes of the next election and provide campaign fodder, House Republicans and Senate Democrats predictably offer bills to put the opposition on record concerning popular initiatives, knowing full well that they aren’t going to be enacted. House Republicans have been champions of “messaging bills” on a wide variety of topics in this particular Congress, most recently in pushing a bill outlawing already outlawed voting by noncitizens, which was backed by Donald Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson.

So the howls of protest by Senate Republicans over Chuck Schumer’s decision to move a “messaging bill” that would establish a federal right to contraception services are a bit ridiculous. Republicans are increasingly echoing Trump’s new position that all reproductive-rights issues should be a matter of state law (a stance the GOP would undoubtedly abandon the minute it had the power to ban abortion at the federal level). So it’s entirely appropriate for Democrats to make it clear they favor setting such policies nationally via preemptive federal legislation. In other words, it’s a “message” that needs to be sent and received by voters, particularly since it exposes some questionable grounds for GOP opposition (e.g., that contraceptive rights threaten “religious liberty” and that some popular forms of contraception, like Plan B and IUDs, are supposedly “abortifacients”).

It’s also worth noting that while Senate Democrats voted in a solid bloc for the Right to Contraception Act, two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — also voted for it. The vote provided additional evidence that any progress on federal reproductive-rights legislation will require either a Democratic supermajority in the Senate or a modification of the filibuster rules that Republicans utilize so liberally to block legislation they don’t like.

But the most laughable aspect of the GOP complaints about “messaging bills” is that 11 Senate Republicans, led by Mike Lee of Utah, have just declared that they will obstruct any “Democrat legislation” or Biden-administration nominations for the foreseeable future in order to protest the guilty verdict a Manhattan jury imposed on Donald Trump last week:

So legislation confirming the federal right to contraception that was called into question by the U.S. Supreme Court is outrageous, but bringing congressional activity to a grinding halt in reaction to a state jury deciding a state court case under state law is just fine. This step is even more obviously a “messaging” effort since its sole purpose is to reinforce Trump’s claim that he is the victim of a vast conspiracy of prosecutors and judges at every level of government being orchestrated by Joe Biden.

Anyone who legitimately objects to the bipartisan ritual of “messaging bills” should hope for an end to divided government in November. But anyone who’s against to the denial of reproductive rights by the U.S. Supreme Court and a host of red states should hope a trifecta is not held by a Republican Party that is still in thrall to the anti-abortion movement.

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