Chuck Schumer’s Political Malpractice
Pennsylvania’s GOP discovers the downside of crazy.
Before we get to Chuck Schumer’s latest episode of legislative bumf***ery, I want to call your attention to what’s happening in Pennsylvania, where the GOP is belatedly discovering the downside of sleeping with the crazy.
In the PA governor’s race, what’s left of the Republican “establishment” is in full panic over the possibility that a Jan. 6th coup-attending election-denier might win next week’s primary.
And, in the PA Senate race, the same bunch are in full panic (but I repeat myself) over the possibility that a hitherto obscure, and quite definitely bizarre, candidate might win next week’s primary. Via Axios:
Influential Republicans in Washington and among the nationwide party elite are having a belated "oh s--t" moment over the previously unimaginable prospect that Kathy Barnette could win their party's nomination for the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania.
Thoughts and prayers, of course, for the party that worries about the lunatic fringe but is still all in for the Donald Trump Restoration.
Speaking of which:
Schumer’s abortion vote botch job
It could have been 52-48, or even 53-47, but yesterday Chuck Schumer couldn’t even get 50 votes for his doomed-to-fail performative vote on abortion.
Of course, even with the extra votes, the measure would have fallen short of the 60 votes it needed for passage. But that was never the point of the show vote, which was supposed to be all about messaging. But Schumer managed to bungle even that.
The other day my colleague Tim Miller previewed the Dem leader’s “strategy.”
To the delight of Republican senators, Schumer plans to make Democratic senators vote on abortion legislation that is both unpopular—it would legalize abortions through all nine months of pregnancy, a position most Americans disapprove of—and hopeless, since it does not have the votes to pass.
Here’s a tip: If you are going to force everyone to take a meaningless messaging vote for public-relations purposes, consider choosing a bill that hurts the other party’s popularity, not your own!
With all due respect, the reality was even worse. . .
The point of the exercise was allegedly to fire up the Dem base, but the bill was apparently also designed to rouse the GOP base in opposition. Well, mission accomplished.
Two pro-choice GOP senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski both voted no, and Democrat Joe Manchin did what he does best and broke with his party.
"Make no mistake, it is not Roe v. Wade codification," he said of the Women's Health Protection Act. "It is an expansion, it wipes 500 state laws off the books, it expands abortion, and with that, that's not where we are today. We should not be dividing this country further than we're already divided, and it's really the politics of Congress that's dividing the country."
Rail against Manchin all you like, but remember, as Tim wrote last year, Joe Manchin Is the Only Thing Standing Between America and Sen. Cletus Von Ivermectin in 2024.
Both Collins and Murkowski expressed support for codifying Roe v. Wade, but also pointed out that the actual bill that Schumer put on the floor was much more sweeping, and apparently, there was little effort to accommodate their concerns. In a statement, Collins complained that the “overly broad language far exceeds Roe by striking down state laws such as those that require certain materials to be given to the patient, prohibit sex-based abortions, or require parental or guardian notification for minors seeking an abortion.”
I know that it’s more fun to dunk on Collins for the whole calling-police-on-the-chalk-thing, but take a moment to actually listen to her objections. Which are (1) not crazy, and (2) the sort of compromises that will be required in a post-Roe world. Here’s her statement:
“I support codifying the abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade and affirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That’s not what the Women’s Health Protection Act would do,” said Senator Collins. “Unlike some far-left activists, Senator Murkowski and I want the law today to be the law tomorrow. That’s why we introduced legislation in February that would enshrine the important Roe and Casey protections into law without undercutting statutes that have been in place for decades and without eliminating basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections to performing abortions.
“Contrary to claims from Senate Democratic leaders that their bill would not infringe upon the religious rights of individuals and religious institutions, the WHPA explicitly invalidates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in connection with abortion and supersedes other longstanding, bipartisan conscience laws, including provisions in the Affordable Care Act, that protect health care providers who choose not to offer abortion services for moral or religious reasons.
Last week, when he was asked why he is not considering the GOP senators’ more moderate proposal, Schumer told reporters that Democrats “are not looking to compromise on something as vital as this.”
This is backwards, because, as Matt Yglesias noted, “The most vital issues are precisely the ones where it’s important to compromise in order to win.”
There were obvious alternatives.
Schumer could have put Collins-Murkowski up for a vote and would have gotten a bipartisan majority.
He could have put Republicans on the defensive by forcing a vote on exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
He could have cast the GOP as extremists by proposing protections for the abortion rights of women with ectopic pregnancies.
Democrats could even have forced a vote on codifying Griswold, which protects the right to contraception.
But once again playing to the activist base rather than to his gettable colleagues, Schumer instead went ahead with a bill that was Mitch McConnell’s messaging dream.
In the end, the show vote left the GOP united and emboldened; and Democrats divided and, despite much fustian and many tweets, without a credible Plan B.
Even Republicans were gobsmacked by Schumer’s muddle.
The approach has perplexed Republicans, who have settled on a strategy of casting Democrats as the extremists. . . .
“They’re not even attempting to nuance this at all,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said. “It’s all, you know, abortion up to the point of birth … which doesn’t even attempt to try and win over people who might be persuadable if they were a little less aggressive in their approach. They’ve decided they’re going full monty on this.”
The political malpractice, it burns.
Exit take: There may be more votes ahead, but yesterday was a lost opportunity, and a possible harbinger of botches yet to come.
Warning: On Thursday night we’re going to try to have grown-up discussion on the livestream about Roe and Dobbs. I’m not confident that this is achievable: Abortion is the most divisive and fraught subject in politics, even under the best of circumstances; right now everyone is on a hair trigger. And no matter what you or I believe, there will be smart people of good faith on the show and in the chat who disagree with us.
But we will give it a go anyway, at 8:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday night.
If you’re inclined, I hope you’ll join us. It won’t be a happy show, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to model for each other how to have these conversations in a way that’s respectful, empathetic, smart, and kind.
No dunking. No insults. No exaggerations. No hysteria. Just people trying to work through one of the hardest problems in good faith.
Obviously, only for members of Bulwark+.
GOP Fight Club
ICYMI, the former president took at shot at three GOP governors yesterday:
Today, the worst “election integrity” Governor in the country, Brian Kemp, loaded the great state of Georgia up with RINOs. That’s right, he had them all. Chris Christie, Doug Ducey from Arizona, and Pete Ricketts from Nebraska. That tells you all you need to know about what you are getting in Georgia—just a continuation of bad elections and a real RINO if you vote for Brian Kemp.
That drew a pointed reply from Chris Christie:
Rep. Dan Crenshaw mixing it up with Putin-apologist MTG. Shots fired.
1. There’s Still More to Be Done to Help Afghans
Jim Swift, in today’s Bulwark:
Private charity is wonderful, and a great many Americans—including many people in our Bulwark audience—were very generous last year. But what is really most needed now is government action—like the Afghan Adjustment Act that, in various forms, is being considered in Congress. An attempt to attach it to a bill supporting Ukraine failed this week, but its backers say they intend to keep trying.
2. I had some thoughts
Don’t really need a translation here, do you?
We have a winner.
Let me say at the outset that yes, Chuck Schumer is a terrible Senate Majority Leader. He sucks. He’s bad at 21st century politics. I would support his removal as Majority Leader. Charlie is 100% right that Chuck is not the person for the job.
After reading the bill I am convinced that all the complaints about it going further than Roe are lies at worst and willful ignorance at best. The text of the bill has been posted in the Morning Shots comments and other places at The Bulwark so there should be no excuse for it. But it’s a way to hit the Democrats for being dummies and I guess that’s just too tempting to pass up.
But here’s the deal. Today is the twelfth of May in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty-two. We are about 180 days out from the midterm elections. Primaries are underway. The Democrats in power and running their races right now are the Democrats we must work with to stave off the next GOP attack on our Democracy.
Will you agree with all of them? No.
Will you agree with some of them? Maybe not.
Will you think some of them are too “woke”? Probably.
Will you wish they were more like the Republicans you used to support? Sure.
None of that matters. Piss and moan about the Democrats all you want. But if you are serious about protecting Democracy right now is the time you must step up and put aside what you wish had happened and deal with what must happen. And what must happen is that the GOP has to lose and lose badly. This means Democrats must win more seats.
If that means voting for Mandela Barnes if he wins his primary, do it.
If that means voting for someone who supports social programs you don’t, do it.
If you don’t, well, the fall of American Democracy will be on you. The Democrats aren’t forcing you to support the fascist GOP or throwing your vote away on some third party. You are doing that. You are choosing that. You are deciding to let American Democracy die on your watch rather than supporting, if only for a short time, politicians that might say and do dumb stuff but can still be relied on to protect the system we’ve enjoyed for the last couple of hundred years.
Vent if you have to, but when you’re done venting vote against every GOP candidate you can.
Coalitions are a good thing, even when there isn't 100% consensus on all issues. All of us support the coalition of Nato and non-Nato countries that have come together to support Ukraine with military weapons, ammunition, and intelligence in their fight for survival against Russia. We support their efforts to provide humanitarian aid to those who have remained in Ukraine, as well as those who have fled.
There is a lot of common ground between center-left and center-right voters on many of the most important issues facing our country today - a woman's right to choose, balanced against viability of the fetus; common sense gun laws to reduce gun violence; the need for affordable health-care that protects pre-existing conditions; lower prescription drug costs; voting rights; racial justice; immigration policies that secure our borders, protect Dreamers and recognize we are a nation of Immigrants; as well as a host of other issues.
These two groups came together in the 2020 election to oust trump because he was unfit to be President and was an on-going danger to our country. The center-right joined this coalition precisely because Democrats had rejected the far-left candidates and overwhelmingly chose a center-left candidate in Joe Biden. If we hadn't, it's more likely than not, that the center-right would have stuck with the devil-they-know than to risk the devil-they-didn't-know.
Today's GQP has gone all-in on trumpism and the radical extremism that represents anti-democratic authoritarianism, embraces quack-a-doodle conspiracy theories, white supremacists and armed militias. They have passed laws in states all across the country to limit and/or take away our rights and increase their ability to overturn election results they oppose.
If we want to bring our country back from the brink of disaster, if we want to affect real change on issues that polls show a majority of Americans agree on, then we have to win elections. The only thing that will force the GQP to reform is massive losses at the polls. We cannot win elections at the state and federal level unless we form another coalition between center-left and center-right, where most voters reside. If it's our way or the highway, all or nothing, then we're going to lose their votes and watch our power diminish from the bare-majority levels we have now.
Republicans have been playing the long game, willing to acquiesce to trump's maga base in any manner, to secure their votes. They have poured money into securing their current SCOTUS majority who are willing to overturn any precedent for them.
Maybe it's time we look to the long-term as well, and the best way to do that is to take away their votes from the center-right. They cannot win without them, and they know it. Let's get smart about our politics. Let's not donate to MTG's democratic opponent in a district that has zero chance of electing a democrat and instead donate to any one of the 4 democratic Senate candidates running in states that have a real possibility of flipping from red to blue. Let's find common ground and be willing to compromise for now, so we can enact real change on issues that all of us care deeply about.
It's up to us to decide. Do we want to win the battle or do we want to win the war? Because, frankly, right now we are losing both.