"I'm pro-life, but I believe in the exceptions: rape and incest," Reed said later.
After the vote series, Speaker John Boehner and his top lieutenants huddled in his office for their daily management meeting. Despite their limited success, they decided to take one last stab at the possibility of moving an amended bill. Boehner himself took respite at the Capitol Hill Club as other leaders handled the legwork.
McCarthy called Scalise and his whip team into his office, along with Walorski, Blackburn, Black, and Wagner as well as Reps. Virginia Foxx and Martha Roby. A group of moderate male Republicans, including Rep. Frank Guinta, joined the meeting as well.
Roby, in particular, made a compelling argument to drop the bill, according to sources in the room. She said there was no reason to bring up messaging legislation that would never pass the Senate or be signed by the president, and would only harm the party's reputation when members already had earned their antiabortion stripes in their districts.
After an hour of back-and-forth, the meeting adjourned. Soon after, leaders sent word to their troops: They had moved too quickly on this bill, not fully internalizing members' concerns. The bill would be dropped. Instead, they would bring up Rep. Chris Smith's bill mandating that no taxpayer funds be used to fund abortions.
"When you rush things and don't do business and let the process work, you just run into trouble every time. So we've learned something," said GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins. "It's just unfortunate with the pro-lifers here that the timing didn't work out this time."
McCarthy broke the news to Rep. Trent Franks, the late-term abortion bill's lead sponsor, fetching him from a reception. McCarthy also met with the heads of half a dozen top antiabortion groups, including National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.
"To say anything other than I was profoundly disappointed would be disingenuous," Franks later said. "We made the most desperate attempt to avoid these kinds of "¦ surprises by making sure that the bill that we introduced was exactly, word for word, letter for letter, the same as the one we passed last time."
Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions was notified that he would have to prepare Smith's bill for the floor immediately. Shortly after 8 p.m., the panel announced it would convene to swap out the two pieces of legislation.
"We landed on the one that was really easy to understand," Sessions said.
The substitute bill passed easily, with just one Republican, Rep. Richard Hanna, voting against it.
Franks said he has a verbal commitment from McCarthy to bring his bill back to the floor later. And outside the Capitol, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers tried to ease the tension with protesters, telling them the bill would come up again.