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Why the Republicans’ other proposed national abortion ban matters

In the Senate, GOP leaders don't want to publicly endorse a national abortion ban. In the House, it's a different story.


Sen. Lindsey Graham probably thought he was doing something clever this week when he unveiled a proposal for a national abortion ban. His Republican colleagues didn’t quite see it that way: Senate GOP leaders were not pleased to see the South Carolinian bolster Democratic arguments about one of the Republican Party’s biggest vulnerabilities eight weeks before Election Day.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his members aren’t on board with Graham’s approach; Republican Sen. John Cornyn emphasized that the Senate GOP conference wasn’t involved with crafting the legislation; and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito added, in reference to Graham, “I’m not sure what he’s thinking here.”

But let’s not overlook what happened on the other side of Capitol Hill. Axios noted yesterday:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dredged up the abortion conversation for Republicans on Tuesday by introducing the 15-week ban, despite saying as recently as last month that the issue should be left to the states. A group of 88 House members, led by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and other co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, introduced a companion bill.

It generated less attention, but as Graham unveiled his bill, New Jersey’s Chris Smith did the same thing in the House. It appears to be the same bill, with the same name, pursuing the same goal: a federal 15-week ban.

What’s different, however, is the length of the list of co-sponsors.

In the upper chamber, Republicans have been far more willing to criticize Graham’s bill than endorse it. As of this morning, only three GOP senators have signed on as co-sponsors, and no one from the Senate leadership has formally backed the legislation.

But in the House, it’s a very different story: The companion bill in the lower chamber now has 86 co-sponsors — that’s roughly 40% of the House Republican conference — including several members of the GOP leadership:

  • House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik
  • House Republican Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson
  • House Republican Conference Secretary Richard Hudson
  • National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer

Graham was noticeably short on like-minded allies in the Senate this week, but in the House, the idea of a national abortion ban appears to be quite popular among Republican lawmakers.

As Democrats tell voters that the GOP supports an abortion ban at the federal level, some Republicans will point to Senate skepticism as proof to the contrary.

In the House, however, GOP members and GOP leaders are helping prove Democrats right.