On a conference call with bloggers today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Pro-Choice Caucus chair Diana DeGette outlined their strategy to defeat a three-pronged legislative assault on reproductive rights and women’s health: H.R. 3, H.R. 217, and H.R. 358.
The most prominent of these three pieces of legislation is H.R. 3, the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” In practice, H.R. 3 imposes a series of tax hikes women and small businesses, in addition to outlawing legal and life-saving medical procedures in thousands of facilities around the country.
HR 217 is an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and generally restrict access to contraception nationwide. HR 358 would make it legal for hospitals to deny women abortions, even if it meant a woman would die right then and there in the hospital without receiving one.
Basically, DeGette and Pelosi said they likely cannot stop H.R. 3. It has 200 co-sponsors of this writing, including about a dozen Democrats. The goal, as other bloggers on the call have already reported, is instead to raise enough of furor over it that the bill dies in the Senate. Greg Sargent:
Pelosi acknowledged that Dems could not stop Republicans from passing their anti-abortion agenda through the House. But she said it was crucial that pro-choice forces and Dems kick up enough noise to ensure that it dies in the Senate: "We have to make this issue too hot to handle."
Pelosi added that she thought President Obama would “probably” veto the bill if it came to his desk. When I asked David Axelrod if that was the case two weeks ago, he demurred and did not directly answer the question.
When it came to HR 217, Pelosi and DeGette said that it was possible the bill could be defeated in the House, and that they were whipping members. DeGette added that one of the biggest obstacles to blocking this bill is that few Americans believe high-ranking Republicans members of Congress actually want to restrict access to contraception for everyone.
Essentially, Pelosi and DeGette’s strategy is to get as many people pissed off about these pieces of legislation as possible. That is just about the oldest, and most straightforward, approach to democratic politics there is--marshal as many people and resources behind your cause as possible, thereby threatening decision makers unless they act on your behalf. Pelosi and DeGette are well aware of the problems they face in mustering sufficient outrage, since there really is widespread disbelief that reproductive rights are in peril. Still, once H.R. 3 passes the House, we either make those who voted for it pay a political price for their vote, or we will continue to see pieces legislation like these become more frequent, more sweeping, and more successful.