Political observers can usually see contentious fights on Capitol Hill coming, but once in a while, they spring up unexpectedly. Take yesterday, for example.
The House was poised to take up a “seemingly harmless” measure supporting breast cancer research. The bill, called the “Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act,” would have authorized the sale of commemorative coins, with proceeds benefiting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
As Roll Call reported, the measure that was supposed to sail through the chamber without incident suddenly faced a Republican revolt.
Komen is a nonprofit organization focused on breast cancer research and health services. But it has also supported Planned Parenthood in the past, and some Republicans and conservative groups suddenly began expressing concern over the bill in the past few days.Heritage Action, a conservative advocacy group, said it would “key vote” against the legislation out of concern that the bill seemed like an earmark for a group that “notoriously funds abortion giant Planned Parenthood.”
House Republican leaders, who often seem surprised by their own members’ attitudes, had no choice but to pull the bill from the floor, rather than face defeat. A Capitol Hill source told me it was the seventh time this year GOP leaders had to pull legislation in the face of a revolt from their own party.
The blowback from the right was so intense that more than 15 House Republicans who co-sponsored the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act took the extra step of going to the floor and having their names removed from the legislation.
For all the talk about Republicans moving past the culture war, and ignoring orders from social conservatives, incidents like these do pop up from time to time.
This is not the first partisan controversy surrounding Komen for the Cure. Long-time readers may recall that in 2012, the group hired Georgia Republican Karen Handel, a staunch opponent of abortion rights and Planned Parenthood, to serve as Komen’s vice president for public policy. Soon after, Komen for the Cure announced it would end all grants to Planned Parenthood.
The announcement prompted a backlash among Komen allies, forcing the group to quickly reverse course and accept Handel’s resignation.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but played no role in this piece.