House

Dem leader says party can include abortion opponents

Greg Nash

The Democrats’ tent is big enough to include anti-abortion lawmakers, the No. 2 House Democrat said Wednesday.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) emphasized that Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of women’s right to terminate a pregnancy. But there’s no litmus test, he said, that would exclude those lawmakers who feel otherwise.

“Absolutely, there’s room in our party,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol.

{mosads}”That doesn’t mean we’re not a pro-choice party — we are,” he said, adding that this has been included in the Democratic platform.

“But that doesn’t mean that … either the Speaker or I believe that we ought to exclude people who have a different view,” Hoyer said.

The comments came a day after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) endorsed a liberal Democrat, Marie Newman, who’s launched a primary challenge against Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), an eight-term Catholic lawmaker with a long voting record opposing abortion rights.

“We can’t afford deep blue seats fighting against healthcare & equal rights,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday in endorsing Newman.

Lipinski is no stranger to such opposition. In last year’s midterm cycle he faced a similar challenge from Newman, who won endorsements from a pair of Lipinski’s Chicagoland colleagues: Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). This year, Newman is also being backed by several liberal presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Lawmaker endorsements against sitting colleagues is exceptionally rare, and both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have adopted a policy of backing the party’s incumbents without exception. 

Hoyer referenced comments from Pelosi, another Catholic, explaining why the party remains inclusive on the abortion issue, despite some liberal calls to make it a litmus test.  
 
“She said, ‘You know, I have a lot of people in my family who disagree with me. You think I’m going to exclude them from my party?'” Hoyer relayed. “I thought that was a perfect answer, and one with which I agree. And I think our party agrees.”

Lipinski was quick to fire back at Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday, saying her socialist-Democrat brand of politics — as reflected in Newman’s policy platform — is simply too liberal for the voters of his district.

“The voters of Illinois’ Third District do not want to be represented by a fifth member of the ‘Squad,'” he said in a statement.

“The Democratic Party — and our country — cannot afford an obstructionist ‘Tea Party of the Left’ when we need to focus on winning this next election and passing policies that will truly help working families and all who are struggling in America today.”

Hoyer, for his part, suggested the intra-party feuding is not helpful as Democrats seek to rally base voters and retain control of the House at the polls next year.

“We want to see the party as unified as possible,” Hoyer said. “We think it’s very important to keep the majority, obviously, not just because we want to be in the majority, but because the values that the parties reflect [are] very, very disparate — as disparate as I’ve seen it in my entire career.”

 
 
Tags Abortion Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Daniel Lipinski Elizabeth Warren Jan Schakowsky Luis Gutierrez Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer
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