GOP To Vote On Abortion Litmus Test
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AllPolitics Jan. 16) -- Republican National Committee members are expected to reject a controversial abortion resolution at their winter meeting in Palm Springs today, according to party officials.
"There is certainly a preponderance of people on the committee who do not think this is the right approach, even though we are almost unanimous in wanting to outlaw partial-birth abortion," RNC chairman Jim Nicholson said today.
Despite predictions, resolution supporters are looking forward to the debate. "I frankly believe the leadership is out of touch" with the grass roots, resolution author Tim Lambert said.
If passed, the resolution would forbid the RNC and its subcommittees from giving money to any candidate who does not support outlawing certain late-term abortion procedures.
The issue has sparked divisive debate during an election year in which
Republicans will be defending their majorities in Congress.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who opposes the resolution, addressed the caucus this afternoon and referred to President Bill Clinton's vetoes of the two late-term abortion bans passed by Congress.
"Our focus should be on why is he [Clinton] stopping this legitimate ban of an inappropriate act, rather than allowing the news media to have a field day trying to divide us," Gingrich said.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) decided at the last minute to fly to California to address the committee before the debate began. Hyde is a strong supporter of the late-term abortion ban, and also opposes the resolution.
Hyde wrote a letter to RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson earlier this week in which he said the most effective way to win the late-term abortion battle was to keep the Republican majorities in Congress and to override the president's veto of the ban.
"We can win an override vote, but not by exclusion of those
whose support is essential to retain our majority," he wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott also suggested in a letter to Nicholson Thursday that the Senate is close to overriding Clinton's veto.
Though his letter did not specifically address the controversy, Lott has said the party should focus on overturning the veto, rather than applying the proposed rule to Republican candidates.
"We will not rest until the ban on partial-birth abortion
becomes law -- if not this year, then early in the next Congress
with an expanded Republican majority," the Mississippi Republican said.
Nicholson sent a memo on Jan. 6 to all 165 members of the RNC expressing his opposition to any such litmus test.
"The question before us is whether we should establish a litmus test and the answer to that is no," wrote Nicholson.
Party officials now say there is no doubt the resolution will
be defeated with potentially 70 percent of the committee voting against it.
Clinton vetoed the late-term abortion bans in 1996 and 1997. The Congress has so far been unable to get the two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate that are necessary to overturn the veto.