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Opinion: Columnists

By pandering to the base, Democrats show they know they're losing the Senate

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Opinion,Congress,David Freddoso,Columnists,Senate Democratic Conference,Health Care,2014 Elections,Abortion,Campaigns

The tell-tale sign Republicans expected to lose the Senate in 2006 appeared June 28 of that year. That was when the GOP turned to stunts to save themselves.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., brought to the floor a constitutional amendment banning the burning of the American flag. Flag-burning had not been a serious issue for years. But after Hurricane Katrina, and with the Iraq War going poorly, Republicans were desperate to change the subject.

“Flag burning is a form of expression that is spiteful or vengeful,” said the late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., whose chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee was at stake in the coming election. “It is designed to hurt. It is not designed to persuade.” The amendment failed by a single vote. (To his credit, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the Senate GOP leader, voted against it.)

Today, the Senate is a mirror Image of what it was then. Senate Democrats, expecting to lose, have given up on actual bills intended to become law in favor of more cynical political stunts.

Their bill to undo the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision is just a bit of blue meat for the base -- a messaging opportunity for their well-worn “war on women” theme.

More audacious, perhaps, is their proposed constitutional amendment to let Congress regulate political speech. This attempt to weaken America's original Bill of Rights could well backfire on the 41 Democrats who are co-sponsoring it, but for now it serves as a symbolic sop for the Left's naïve true-believers in campaign finance reform.

Neither of these measures has a prayer of passage -- especially the constitutional change, which would require two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate and ratification by the states.

But of all the no-chance measures lingering in Congress today, the Women's Health Protection Act of 2013, which received a committee hearing Tuesday, has to be the most explosive. At a time when Americans increasingly view abortion as either a necessary or an unnecessary evil, Senate Democrats are proposing to turn back the clock to the days when states could hardly regulate abortion at all.

The Women's Health Protection Act would require courts to change the way they approach abortion laws. If enacted, it would likely wipe out almost all of the modest and popular state abortion restrictions that have helped push the abortion rate to its lowest level in four decades.

In jeopardy are state restrictions on late-term abortion; requirements that actual doctors perform abortions; requirements for informed consent; requirements that women be allowed to see an ultrasound or any ultrasound performed; and waiting periods that the Supreme Court has previously upheld.

The proposal would likely also endanger prohibitions on federal taxpayer funding of abortion and conscience protections for medical practitioners who refuse to participate in abortion.

Also, for the first time, the Women's Health Protection Act would specifically bar laws against the practice of systematically aborting female babies — also known as sex-selective abortions. This adds a rather sick irony to the bill's title. So does the fact that it would probably discourage overly-rigorous clinic safety inspections and cause many clinic safety regulations to be stricken — the kind designed to prevent future Kermit Gosnells.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton found a defensible rhetorical trench for abortion advocates, declaring that he wanted it “safe, legal and rare.” Today's congressional Democrats agree with this, except for the “safe” and “rare” parts.

Or at least, that's the message they hope to send to their base now.

DAVID FREDDOSO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is the former Editorial Page Editor for the Examiner and the New York Times-bestselling author of "Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Re-elect Barack Obama." He has also written two other books, "The Case Against Barack Obama" (2008) and "Gangster Government" (2011).
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David Freddoso

Contributing Editor
The Washington Examiner

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