Top GOP lawmaker moves to force floor vote on abortion bill

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe case for congressional pay raises The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (R-La.) on Tuesday took a step toward forcing a floor vote on legislation that would require medical care protections for infants that survive an abortion.

Introduction of the discharge petition is the latest attempt by Republicans to circumvent Democratic control of the House floor and force members across the aisle to cast a vote on a politically divisive topic.

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Scalise and Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerA true believer in diversity, inclusion GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates Republicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave MORE (R-Mo.) have been leading GOP efforts to advance the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which was reintroduced earlier this year.

The two lawmakers have expressed confidence in their ability to garner the 218 signatures needed to implement the discharge petition, a rarely successful procedural tool.

"It should be the easiest decision to make, to sign the discharge petition," Scalise told The Hill. "Whether you're pro-life or pro-choice you should be able to stand up for babies who were born alive outside the womb."

Republicans have made the bill a central component of their messaging strategy after the issue gained traction with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) defending a state measure that would make third-trimester abortions easier to obtain.

Northam told a Virginia radio station in February: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen: the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."

Congressional Republicans have since attempted to bring the bill up for a vote via unanimous consent more than 20 times on the House floor.

“[Speaker] Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE [D-Calif.] refuses to bring this bill up — but you know what? The good news is all of us here today have a message for Nancy Pelosi: If you don't bring it up, we'll bring it up. And that's what this discharge petition is about,” Scalise told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

Wagner argued the bill is necessary, saying only 26 states have protections in place, with some considering rolling back those regulations.

Critics of the legislation — which would mandate hospital employees to report violations to law enforcement officials, with violators facing the possibility of fines or up to five years in prison — argue the measure could prevent women from obtaining safe abortions and put medical practitioners at risk of lawsuits and prosecution.

The Senate voted 53-44 to block consideration of the legislation in February. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber.