In interviews on Monday evening, GOP senators lashed out at their own national party's overwhelming vote to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for working on the House's investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. They warned that alienating a portion of the party for being overly anti-Trump is not a political winner heading into the midterms, a sharp message from sitting members that goes far beyond criticism already aired by a handful of GOP pundits.
Several Republican senators took more direct action: Both Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) were in communication with RNC chair Ronna McDaniel about the censure, with Graham calling her and Romney texting his niece.
“A very unfortunate decision by the RNC and a very unfortunate statement put out as well. Nothing could be further from the truth than to consider the attack on the seat of democracy as legitimate political discourse,” Romney said in an interview. Graham said the party is going in the “wrong direction” when it’s not talking about taking back control of Congress.
The RNC is supposed to be a unifying organization within the party. But its passage of a resolution censuring Cheney and Kinzinger for the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” is having the opposite effect — reopening divisions between the large pro-Trump wing of the party, the smaller anti-Trump wing and the rest of a GOP still trying to find its way amid a favorable midterm cycle.
The intrigue will continue to play out later this week, with internal discussions in the House over the censure and future of Cheney and Kinzinger in the party.
The RNC “did say in their resolution that the job was to win elections. I agree with that. But then they go on to engage in actions that make that more challenging,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I don’t think you can kick out of the party everybody you disagree with. Or it’s going to be a minority party.”
McConnell, who has defended Cheney in the past, said he would address the matter on Tuesday at his usual press conference. Several members of his leadership team expressed their concern about GOP infighting. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the No. 5 GOP leader, said it shouldn’t be the job of the RNC to censure individual members of Congress: “I wish they wouldn’t. I would leave it up to the states.”
“We’ve got a lot of issues that we should be focusing on besides censuring two members of Congress because they have a different opinion,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who serves on McConnell’s leadership team. “I thought: Free speech for everybody.”
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
As the clock ticks down to SCOTUS gutting Roe and states being allowed to end safe abortion services for tens of millions, Vermont is expected to put the question of a right to abortion to voters and to enshrine that right in the state's constitution.
Vermont legislators will vote Tuesday on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion and contraception, the first amendment of its kind anywhere in the United States.
If passed, the proposed amendment, known as Proposition 5, will head to Gov. Phil Scott (R), who is required to give public notice of the measure before it appears on the ballot in November. Scott has signaled his support for Proposition 5. And voters in Vermont, where 70 percent of people say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, are expected to approve it.
The proposal is part of a wave of abortion rights legislation to emerge in Democratic states this year, ahead of a key Supreme Court ruling on abortion expected this summer. The Supreme Court case, which involves a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks, could overturn or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that has guaranteed the right to abortion for almost 50 years.
Fifteen states have passed laws protecting the right to abortion, including, most recently, New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act in January. Other states, such as Florida, have privacy laws in their state constitutions, which courts have interpreted to protect the right to abortion. But no other state has enshrined the right to abortion in its constitution.
At a moment when antiabortion legislators across the Southeast and Midwest are proposing dramatic rollbacks of abortion rights, abortion rights advocates are thrilled to see a state moving in the opposite direction.
“We are hoping to be a model for other states to follow,” said Lucy Leriche, vice president of Vermont Public Policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “In states all over the country, politicians are moving to take away reproductive rights, specifically abortion rights, and we could be an example of another way.”
Republican lawmakers and lobbyists in Vermont have called the amendment “extreme.” By adding this amendment to the state constitution, said Republican state Rep. Anne Donahue, legislators are making the assumption that public opinion on abortion won’t change.
“We as human beings have made a lot of mistakes at times when we thought we were doing the right thing,” said Donahue, who cited the Supreme Court’s prior rulings on segregation and eugenics. “When we start putting a current belief in the constitution, I think we’re playing with fire.”
Donahue and other Republicans have cited concerns with certain language in the proposed amendment. Proposition 5 guarantees the right to “reproductive autonomy,” a term Donahue said is too vague, opening the door for future courts to interpret the amendment more broadly than legislators intended.
The Supreme Court on Monday reinstated an Alabama congressional map that a lower court had said diluted the power of Black voters, suggesting that the court was poised to become more skeptical of challenges to voting maps based on claims of race discrimination.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.
The Supreme Court’s brief order, which included no reasoning, was provisional, staying a lower court’s decision while the case moves forward. The justices said they would hear Alabama’s appeal of the lower court’s ruling, but they did not say when.
Both the stay and the decision to hear the case indicated that the court is open to weakening the role race may play in drawing voting districts for federal elections, setting up a major new test of the Voting Rights Act in a court that has gradually limited the reach of the law in other contexts.
The dispute in Alabama is part of a pitched redistricting battle playing out across the country, with Democrats and Republicans alike challenging electoral districts as unlawful gerrymanders. Those challenges have mostly been filed in state courts, meaning the Supreme Court is unlikely to intervene.
Civil rights leaders and some Democrats say the redistricting process often disadvantages growing minority communities. Republican state officials say the Constitution allows only a limited role for the consideration of race in drawing voting districts.
If the court follows its usual practices, it will schedule arguments in the Alabama case for the fall and issue a decision months later, meaning that the 2022 election would be conducted using the challenged map.
Alabama has seven congressional districts and its voting-age population is about 27 percent Black. In the challenged map, Black voters are in the majority in one district. The lower court, relying on the Voting Rights Act, had ordered the State Legislature to create a second district in which Black voters could elect a representative of their choice.
In a concurring opinion on Monday, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said that “the stay order does not make or signal any change to voting rights law.” It was necessary, he wrote, because the lower court had acted too soon before a coming election.
“When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “Late judicial tinkering with election laws can lead to disruption and to unanticipated and unfair consequences for candidates, political parties and voters, among others.”