WASHINGTON — The new Republican-led House plans to pass a series of bills in the coming days to impose abortion limits and curtail immigration as part of an opening legislative salvo that sets up a confrontation with the Democratic-led Senate and highlights a political contrast ahead of the 2024 election.
Among the seven bills that were assured speedy votes in the rules package passed this week is one that would empower the Homeland Security secretary to block entry for migrants at “his discretion” as necessary to “achieve operational control” over the border. Another would require the background check system to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a person in the U.S. unlawfully seeks to buy a gun. Two would curtail abortion with new prohibitions on federal funding for the procedure and new regulations about how health care practitioners attend infants born alive after abortions.
The “born alive” bill is expected to get a vote Wednesday, causing anxiety among some GOP members. The party paid a heavy price in the 2022 midterm election for building the Supreme Court that ended the constitutional right to abortion.
Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said most voters in her swing district, which is based in Charleston, oppose the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She said it’s a bad idea for the House to bring up those bills.
“It’s tone-deaf at this point. It’s never going to pass the Senate. It’s never going to get to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” Mace said Tuesday. “We’re only paying lip service to the pro-life movement. If you want to make a difference and reduce the number of abortions with a Democrat-controlled Senate, the No. 1 issue we should be working on is access to birth control.”
“We have been tone-deaf on this issue since the time that Roe was overturned. We buried our heads in the sand,” she told reporters. “We didn’t have any policy alternatives. We were not compassionate to both sides of the aisle on this argument.”
Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., who narrowly won re-election last fall, said she’s “vehemently opposed” to the Republican bills “weaponizing abortion.” But she didn’t close the door on the bills about immigration, saying she’d review and consider them.
Republicans have gained a political advantage on immigration in recent years, using it to stir up a passionate base of conservatives who want limits on migration. Most voters indicated to pollsters last year that they prefer the GOP to handle the issue. Numerous Democrats facing re-election in swing states last year, including Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, broke with Biden on immigration as they faced anxious independent voters.
Still, some of the more moderate Republicans acknowledge that they’ll have to make compromises with Democrats to get immigration bills signed into law.
“I’m a big believer in merging concepts together to get across the finish line. I believe in the Dream Act and border security merged together,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, the GOP co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “I believe in responsible reciprocity coupled with background checks as ways to advance gun safety.”
On Monday, House Republicans passed the first of the seven-bill series along party lines to cut $71 billion in IRS funding that the Treasury Department says will be used for enforcement on “sophisticated, high-income taxpayers.”
“I promised we would vote to repeal the Democrats’ army of 87,000 IRS agents on our very first day in the majority,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy said. “Promises made. Promises kept.”
The bill, which would repeal part of President Joe Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act, appears to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democrats have 51 votes.
“It’s absolutely absurd. What the Republicans are doing, plain and simple, is helping their friends — the multimillionaires, the wealthy corporations who pay no taxes, from being audited,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."
The fighting words between McCarthy and Schumer point to a tense few years ahead during a divided government, as newly empowered House Republicans plan to advance a slew of conservative goals that excite their base. The GOP rules package adopted Monday identifies the seven bills that will get speedy votes in the House. They are poised to run into trouble in the Senate and face long odds of winning Biden's approval to become law.
“Many of their radical things will be stopped in the Senate because we have a Democratic majority,” Schumer said, vowing not to let ultraconservative lawmakers defund the FBI.
Among the other GOP bills that will receive early votes under the new House majority are legislation that would bar the energy secretary from transmitting products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China and another, billed the "Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act," which would impose reporting requirements on district attorneys and prosecutors to the U.S. attorney general.