‘Not politically helpful’: Moderate GOP senators warn Speaker Johnson on abortion

Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) has made his faith in God well known.

In his first interview after getting the gavel, Johnson told Fox News’s Sean Hannity to “go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it” because “that’s my worldview.”

“That’s what I believe,” he said, “and so I make no apologies for it.”

It’s no surprise, therefore, that, in a 2005 newspaper op-ed, Johnson called abortion a “holocaust,” according to The Hill.

But statements like that are apparently worrying some Republican senators who fear the speaker may move forward with national abortion legislation before the 2024 election.

Johnson has co-sponsored several pro-life bills, including the Heartbeat Protection Act and a bill calling for a national abortion ban after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, unless the mother’s life is in danger in 2021.

“This year, he co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which declares ‘the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization,'” The Hill reports. “He introduced legislation in February to criminalize the transport of a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without satisfying parental involvement law.”

Now, with the 2024 elections approaching fast, some Republican senators want him to back off the controversial subject of national abortion restrictions and leave the matter to the states.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a pro-abortion rights advocate, acknowledges that Johnson is a “strong right-to-life supporter” but says it “remains to be seen” whether he’ll move to advance national abortion restrictions.

“I’m still trying to figure out what his real priorities are,” Murkowski said.

“Based on some of the conversations we’ve had in our conference, there’s been a lot of discussion about the political implications of a vote on abortion that would basically federalize, outlaw abortions,” she said. “It would be viewed as not politically helpful.”

Another Republican senator who wished to remain anonymous claimed that, should Johnson attempt to further push the abortion issue ahead of the Senate and House races, it would be political malpractice.

“He’s now got 221 people he’s got to figure out how to get consensus from and [abortion] is just not a consensus issue now,” the senator said, noting the size of the House GOP conference.

“That’s not a fully uniting position,” he said. “I think what he keeps looking for — if I were him and I think he is — are fully uniting positions such as Israel [aid] with an offset. Maybe Ukraine with [border] policy changes.”

Speaking with Hannity, Johnson admitted there’s “no national consensus” on the subject.

“We argued my entire career for 25 years that the states should have the right to do this,” he said. “There’s no national consensus among the people on what to do with that issue on a federal level for certain.”

Since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — Johnson’s counterpart — wants the states to navigate the abortion debate. Any national abortion legislation, he’s argued, would never get the 60 votes it needs to pass the Senate.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) agrees.

“I don’t know what they’ll do in the House,” he said, according to The Hill. “My preference is that the turning over of Roe v. Wade was designed to allow the states to make that decision. It may be messy in terms of lots of states having different points of view but eventually you’ll end up with a national consensus about where it should be based on what the states find works for them.”

“None of this is going to be perfect,” Rounds reasoned. “If you go all-in and you have an absolute, strict abortion bill — and if it doesn’t pass muster and people return it — they may very well go the wrong direction and have a very liberal law that doesn’t save lives.”


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