Before a crowd of the party faithful at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Conference Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to bring a controversial House-passed abortion bill before the Senate.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would ban abortions at 20 weeks, passed the House after some turmoil within the Republican conference just last month. McConnell gave no time frame for bringing the bill to the Senate floor this year.
"That's not only good news for pro-lifers; it's good news for our entire country," McConnell said. "It's about time we begin the process of putting America into the ranks of most other civilized countries by protecting unborn children after 20 weeks in the womb."
Any abortion measure is unlikely to clear the upper chamber, needing at least six Democratic yeas to reach the 60 necessary to proceed. But the vote would give both parties the opportunity to put members on the record on the issue.
That could raise problems for some of the Senate's 2016 reelection candidates, many of whom are Republicans facing difficult battles in blue and purple states where an abortion vote could hurt them with swing and traditionally Democratic voters. At the same time, late-term abortion bans poll well generally and are exceedingly popular with GOP voters, making Republican candidates wary of opposing them.
The 20-week abortion measure was introduced in the Senate last week by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a GOP presidential candidate, and has 45 cosponsors—all Republicans—including McConnell.
The vow was McConnell's biggest applause line of the morning, a promise welcomed by conservative activists here at Washington's Omni Shoreham Hotel to hear from party leaders and, most significantly, many of its 2016 candidates. The reaction was yet another sign of the significance of the issue to party's conservative base, particularly the religious Right who will be key to getting out the party's base in 2016.
McConnell took several swipes at President Obama, who would undoubtedly veto the abortion measure, on Friday, calling him the most liberal president in history. McConnell warned the crowd to temper their expectations for his majority, given the president's veto pen and that he has just 54 members. But, McConnell offered, the Senate can "stop a lot of bad things from happening. ... We have and we will stop a lot of bad things" until a new president, preferably a Republican, takes over.
What bad things he'll stop in the meantime, McConnell did not say.