Pro-Life Democrats Target GOP Senators

WASHINGTON — Democrats in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island appear likely to nominate pro-life candidates for two highly competitive U.S. Senate races in 2006.

These Democrats, however, may support the Democratic filibuster that has kept some of President Bush’s judges off the federal bench and could be central to preserving a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., considered one of the champions of the pro-life cause in Washington, D.C., faces a tough re-election next year against Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr.

Casey is pro-life, and he threatens to dig deeply into Santorum’s base of pro-life Democrats in central and western Pennsylvania.

The most vulnerable Republican Senator in 2006 will be Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The Democratic field is still forming, but U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin is seriously considering a run. Langevin would be the favorite to win the nomination. He is pro-life when it comes to abortion, though he is outspoken in favor of human cloning for the sake of biomedical research.

While these races might only reflect the present political situations in those two states, Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life, said this represents a pattern.

“The 2004 election showed our party that they have to wake up,” Day said. “They had to set aside the litmus test” on abortion.

Santorum first made an impact in Washington by leading the charge on the partial-birth abortion ban in 1995. However, he lost some support among pro-life Republicans last year when his tireless work on behalf of pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter saved Specter from defeat in a primary election against pro-life U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey. Specter is now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which controls the confirmation hearings of federal judgeship nominees.

While the Democrats won’t officially choose their senate nominee until April 2006, top party operatives in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., have cleared the field for Casey, driving out his potential competition.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, together with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, convinced pro-abortion State Treasurer Barbara Hafer not to challenge Casey in the primary.

Rendell and Schumer both have near-perfect voting records with pro-abortion groups. A poll in mid-February showed Casey leading Santorum by six points in a hypothetical match-up, while Santorum outpaced all other potential challengers in that survey.

Examining Records

Casey is the son of former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, a Democrat who was prevented by his party from addressing its national convention in 1992 because of his pro-life position. His father was also on the losing side of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court decision that upheld Roe. This pro-life legacy poses a challenge for Santorum.

 “I’m going to work very hard to make sure that folks know about my record on these issues, my activism on these issues, my outspokenness on these issues and my leadership on these issues,” Santorum said. “I’ll match my record up, not just against any Democrat in the state of Pennsylvania, but any Democrat in the country.”

Responses to a 2000 questionnaire from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which are posted on the internet, indicate that Santorum favors abortion in cases of rape or incest, a charge his spokeswoman denied.

“Senator Santorum does not hold an exception for rape and incest,” Elizabeth Keys said.

In a similar questionnaire in 2004, Casey addressed the issue of a hypothetical abortion ban containing such exceptions by stating, “I would strongly support the bill because it would have the effect of reducing the number of abortions in Pennsylvania.”

In Rhode Island, voters could face a choice between a Republican who has voted against the pro-life position on every abortion and cloning vote since arriving in office (according to the abortion scorecard issued by National Right to Life) and a Democrat with a mixed record that is mostly pro-life.

Langevin has voted the pro-life side on nearly all abortion and cloning votes since arriving in Washington in 2001. He recently switched his position on cloning so that he supports cloning for biomedical research, which involves the deliberate creation and killing of human embryos.

Embryos are human beings with unique DNA who are already boys or girls with a right to live. Scientists want to create them in laboratories in order to kill them and use their biological material. At the Democratic National Convention last summer, Langevin spoke from the podium in support of the scientists.

For a Filibuster?

Chafee, meanwhile, is 100% pro-abortion, opposing the partial-birth abortion ban, supporting federal funding of abortions and opposing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

Because of the nature of partisan politics and Senate rules, a candidate’s personal views or individual voting record are not the only indicators of how they would impact the pro-life cause.

Most pressing is the issue of judges, where Democrats have launched an unprecedented filibuster against 10 nominees for federal appellate and district courts, and threaten to do the same on any Supreme Court nominee who would overturn Roe. Republicans close to the confirmation process point to Santorum as the champion of Bush’s nominees, and the leader in that battle.

The U.S. Constitution requires a simply majority — 51 votes — to confirm judges. By using Senate filibustering rules to their advantage, Senate Democrats have set the bar much higher — the Senate must first break a filibuster with a 60-vote majority before considering a nominee. Republicans call this unconstitutional and are looking for ways to end the practice.

Casey campaign spokesman Mark Farinella said that Casey believes that democratic tactics being used to stop President Bush’s judicial nominees are fair, even though they work against pro-life judges.

Farinella’s statement went further: “Democrats have prevented votes on a handful of nominees, not because of their views on choice, but because they are outside the mainstream on all sorts of issues.” Farinella referred to the 10 filibustered Bush nominees as “extreme.”

In a January letter to the Senate, Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler wrote on behalf of the U.S. bishops that these nominees ought to be considered.

“We are troubled by reports that national abortion advocacy groups, and even some U.S. senators, view nominees who oppose the purposeful taking of innocent human life as somehow unfit for judicial office in the United States,” he wrote. “When considering nominees, the Senate should not allow itself to be held captive to such an unfair and unreasonable standard.”

Chafee opposes filibustering nominees, but he also opposes GOP rules changes which would stop the practice. Additionally, Chafee voted against the nomination of pro-life nominee Leon Holmes. Langevin would not state a position on the filibuster before he has decided to run for Senate.

Timothy P. Carney writes

from Washington, D.C.