Senate Republicans Legislative Block Could Affect Military Abortion Debate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 1, 2010   |   1:53PM   |   Washington, DC

Senate Republicans today unanimously agreed to use a filibuster to block any controversial legislation until a deal is worked out on extending tax cuts to Americans — a move that could affect abortion.

The Senate is currently under watch by those who are concerned about the Defense Department funding bill, the last version of which has an amendment that would allow abortions at taxpayer funded military base hospitals.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, all 42 Republicans said they would not agree to proceed on any legislation until the Senate has agreed to extend the tax cuts. Their decision means they would prevent Senate Democrats from voting on the Defense bill with or without the provision for abortions.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell explained the new statement of position in an interview this morning.

“One thing I think we all agreed on at the White House is that we ought to do first things first,” McConnell said in an interview with ABC News. “And what the American people want to know is, ‘Are our taxes going up, and how are you going to fund the government?’ Let’s do those things first, and see what kind of time is left.”

Asked if he thought that meant the Senate would have time to debate repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” another controversial provision in the Senate bill, McConnell said: “No, I don’t think so.”

That means the Senate may not get to the Defense bill and the pro-life movement would possibly have achieved a legislative victory by preventing passage of a measure overturning a longstanding law protecting taxpayers and military doctors, who unanimously refused to do abortions when the Clinton administration overturned the policy.

Not taking any chances that a filibuster will forestall a vote on the legislation, the Susan B. Anthony list continued today to urge its members to contact senators to urge opposition to any Defense Department funding bill containing the military abortion provision.

“Please call your Senators immediately and tell them to vote NO on the Department of Defense Authorization bill if it contains a pro-abortion amendment that would allow abortions on military bases,” SBA list president Marjorie Dannenfelser wrote in an email to pro-life people this morning.

She said SBA List activists have sent over 34,000 emails to the Senate opposing the inclusion of a pro-abortion amendment into the Department of Defense authorization bill. They were effective in getting Republicans to filibsuter the bill the first time it came up for a vote.

“But we must keep up the pressure and it’s time to take to the phones,” she said.

Dannenfelser said the pressure should be kept on in part because, with Senate Democrats controlling the legislative agenda, pro-life groups don’t know whether the final version of the bill will retain the pro-abortion amendment.

“Pro-life Senators and groups are being kept in the dark as to whether this amendment will actually be in the final version of the bill, which is why we need you to take action now,” she said.