McConnell suddenly OK with 'pointless' votes if they're about abortion


Mitch McConnell called bills to end the shutdown 'absolutely pointless' — but he was happy to bring forward an anti-choice bill that had no chance of passing.

Throughout the shutdown, Mitch McConnell has shown himself to be completely disinterested in the welfare of the American people. He's made no attempt to get the government reopened. His disappearing act is so impressive that it spawned a Twitter hashtag.

But somehow he managed to find time to come to the Senate floor to engage in some pointless anti-choice theater.

Every year around the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, Republicans take to the chambers to pass symbolic bills opposing safe, legal abortion. They do this to please anti-choice extremists, who descend on Washington every year on the anniversary of Roe for the so-called March for Life.

Republicans decided to bring up such a symbolic bill again this year, even though the government is shut down. And even though McConnell insists it would be "absolutely pointless" to vote on bills to end the shutdown if Trump wouldn't sign them into law, he apparently didn't think it pointless to vote on an abortion bill that wouldn't even pass the Senate, let alone find its way to Trump's desk.

McConnell's hypocrisy is egregious, but the bill itself is even worse. It seeks to stop something — federal funding for abortion — that hasn't even existed for decades.

The Hyde Amendment, which passes every year as a rider on federal budget bills, bans the use of federal Medicaid dollars for abortion except in cases of incest, rape, or danger to the life of the mother. It's not possible for even a single federal dollar to pay for an abortion in any other instance. But this year the Republicans felt it vital to try to codify it into a standalone law.

There's a growing movement to get rid of the Hyde Amendment entirely because it discriminates against poor women and denies them their constitutional right to an abortion. Democrats have vowed to repeal Hyde.

So a bill to make Hyde permanent never had even the most slender of chances. It takes 60 votes to open debate on a bill in the Senate, and this bill got only 47.

It was a little odd to see McConnell working so hard to bring this completely fruitless bill to the floor when he has otherwise refused to do his job. He spent two full days ducking House Democrats who were trying to meet with him to talk about ending the shutdown. He blocked votes on reopening the government, even though he was more than happy to make everyone go through his anti-choice show vote. And he said he won't bring any bills to the floor unless he's sure that Trump will sign them, utterly abdicating his legislative duty.

McConnell is making quite clear he has no interest in actual governance. He's interested in preserving his power and blocking the progress of anyone he perceives as being on the opposite side. That's why, regrettably, he's the perfect accomplice for Trump's shutdown.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.