New York Times: GOP Chances in November May Be Imperiled (part 1)
WASHINGTON — As an orator, Representative Todd Akin of Missouri may stand out for his clumsiness. But as a legislator, Mr. Akin has a record on abortion that is largely indistinguishable from those of most of his Republican House colleagues, who have viewed restricting abortion rights as one of their top priorities.
That agenda — largely eclipsed for two years by a protracted fiscal crisis and the fight over how to manage the federal deficit — has wedged its way, for now at least, to the center of the 2012 campaign. It is focusing attention on an issue that helped earn Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a reputation as a flip-flopper, threatening the Republican quest for control of the Senate, and leaving Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Mr. Romney’s vice-presidential pick, in the uncomfortable position of distinguishing himself from Mr. Akin, with whom he has often concurred.
It is an agenda that has enjoyed the support of House leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who has called anti-abortion measures “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.” It became inextricably linked to the near-shutdown of the federal government last year when an agreement to keep the government open was reached only after it was linked to a measure restricting abortion in the District of Columbia.
Even as Congressional Republicans, including Mr. Boehner, denounced Mr. Akin’s remark that victims of “legitimate rape” were able to somehow prevent pregnancy, an agenda to roll back abortion is one that House Republicans have largely moved in step with.
In an anti-abortion measure once sponsored by Mr. Akin, Mr. Ryan and scores of other Republican lawmakers, an exemption was made for victims of “forcible” rape, though that word was later removed.
On Tuesday, Republicans approved platform language for next week’s nominating convention that calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or ******. That is a view more restrictive than Mr. Romney’s, who has said that he supports exceptions to allow abortions in cases of rape.
Mr. Ryan’s more conservative views, which have been reflected in votes that would restrict family planning financing overseas, cut off all federal funds to Planned Parenthood and repeal President Obama’s health care law, have come into sharp relief as Mr. Akin struggles for his political life. Mr. Akin and Mr. Ryan each have voted in this Congress for 10 abortion-restricting measures as well as those that limited other family planning services.
Both Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney have earned praise for their positions from the National Right to Life group and other anti-abortion organizations. “The right-to-life Romney/Ryan ticket is now complete,” wrote Barbara Lyons and Sue Armacost, executive director and legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, on the organization’s Web site.
It is a legislative theme Democrats plan to highlight, even as House Republicans try to keep the focus on economic issues.
“All you need to know is that the House Republicans were willing to shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, in an e-mail on Tuesday. “This is in keeping with their efforts — whether it’s Congressman Akin or Chairman Ryan or others — to deny investments in critical women’s health services, weaken the definition of rape, and take away access to preventive care like cervical and breast cancer screenings.”
The House Republican agenda has troubled the half-dozen or so Republican House members whose views differ from those of their colleagues.
“I have time and again spoken out against this to leadership,” said Representative Robert Dold of Illinois, who is in a tough re-election battle. “I’ve tried to talk to them about the issues that we ought to be moving forward on, like out-of-control spending.”
Mr. Dold has voted in favor of half of the abortion restriction measures in this Congress, far fewer than most of his colleagues. “There is no question that there are times when I may disagree with a vote that’s brought to the floor,” he said in an interview, “and the majority of my Republican colleagues, but that is just part of what we deal with every day.”
There have long been lawmakers, like Mr. Akin, whose main legislative agenda centers on the abortion issue. They got a boost after the 2010 election when a large group of conservative members joined them. - CONT