On the Other Hand….Mark Critz

Jodi Jacobson

While progressive Democrats can celebrate the first-step win of Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) over Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in last night's primary, another Pennsylvania race ended with a win for anti-choice Blue Dog Democrats. 

While progressive Democrats can celebrate the first-step win of Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) over Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in last night’s primary, another Pennsylvania race ended with a win for Blue Dog Democrats.  Translation: Late Congressman John Murtha’s seat went to his former PA-12 district director, Mark Critz.

Critz is proudly anti-choice.  According to his website:

Mark is pro-life and opposes taxpayer funding of abortion.  In Congress, Mark will fight for policies that stand up for the sanctity of life.

For the most part, these words are code for the sanctity of life of zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses over those of women.  Full stop.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

But how anti-choice Critz really is remains to be seen, as he has no voting record on which to base an analysis.  Will he vote against prevention programs? Against contraception? Against access to clinics and all the services they provide?  Will he support laws and policies that flout all evidence regarding how to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections? Will he vote against funding for SCHIP, food stamps and other programs critical to ensuring reproductive justice?  Or will he be another reflexive, anti-evidence, anti-choice vote?

If Specter was a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) who lost his seat, the Democratic party seems to have gained another DINO in Critz, one for whose campaign they paid large sums of money.

Democrats gave $800,000 to the Critz campaign, according to David Dayen of Firedog Lake.

They expected it to be used to help Democrats win. But Mark Critz, in his first TV ad, basically [told] voters that Democrats aren’t to be trusted and they shouldn’t hold the seat. He contrasts[ed]an ad put up by Republicans saying that Critz would vote the “liberal agenda” in Congress by saying “That ad’s not true. I opposed the health care bill. And I’m pro-life, and pro-gun. That’s not liberal.”

“I’m sure,” Dayen continues, “DCCC donors, particularly pro-choice and pro-gun control ones, are thrilled to know that Mark Critz plans to vote against every single one of their beliefs, and that they helped put him in office.”

The truth is that Critz [was] favored in this special election for a variety of reasons. The main one is that the May 18 special election [was] held on the same day as the Pennsylvania primaries, and there [were] simply more interesting primary races on the Democratic side.

While Critz claims to be a proponent of smaller government, it seems to be widely understood that that means smaller government for everyone but residents of the 12th district.  Jim Geraghty of National Review Online discusses how important pork-barrel politics is and has been in the district:

Now here’s an analysis on Pennsylvania’s 12th district I find compelling: Forget Democrat vs. Republican registration numbers; this is a pork-based district, and the voters knew that the guy who talked about creating jobs in the private sector wasn’t as committed to bringing home the bacon.

Geraghty also quotes a reader comment:

A reader familiar with the area weighs in:

If you’ve ever been in Johnstown, stop by the flood museum,  it’s pretty good but about the only thing going on in the area. Murtha survived (and thrived) by being a porkmeister par excellance. There is no industry surviving, no business and the area is hard to get to the coal/steel hill country. I think Burns had to compete with a socially conservative but traditional union voter population that has looked for it’s representative in D.C. to bring home the bacon. Critz could tie himself to Murtha’s success in that regard. Of all the Northeastern states, Pennsylvania is much like Maine in that the finance/software/services economy has not fully compensated for the collapse of the older heavily unionized industrial base. Republicans have to sell  the hard proposition that there is no more money to give out.

“The reader is correct,” writes Geraghty, “but we should realize the difficulty of the message “there is no more free ice cream” against the message “There is plenty of free ice cream, and I will make sure you get your share.””

So in short, Critz is another fiscal conservative in pig’s clothing with a tendency to play politics, at least rhetorically for now, with women’s (and other people’s) rights to get elected.

We’ve seen this movie before. After the absolutely bruising fight over the Stupak and Nelson amendments in health care reform and the general silence from much of the Democratic Party on issues of choice, the election of another Blue Dog Democrat does not bode well.  Nonetheless it may be a wash. In fact, he is a mirror-image replacement of his former boss, Congressman Murtha, who had a zero percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a 70 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

News Abortion

Blackburn Abortion Investigation Set for Congressional Windfall

Christine Grimaldi

All told, the investigation is well on its way to totaling $790,000, using nearly 80 percent of the House’s available supplemental funding.

Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating questionable reproductive health-care allegations have sought an additional $490,000 in funding—even as Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) publicly indicated that their activities may halt by the end of the year.

Congressional documents reveal that panel Republicans requested the money from the Committee on House Administration, which sets aside $500,000 per session of Congress to supplement operating budgets.

​A congressional aide told ​ Rewire that the request has been approved.​

The panel last year received $300,000, which followed the House’s informal two-thirds/one-third funding split between the majority and minority parties, from the Administration Committee’s coffers. All told, the investigation is well on its way to totaling $790,000, using nearly 80 percent of the House’s available supplemental funding.

House rules stipulate that standing subcommittees draw funding from the budget of the full committee with jurisdiction and pursue additional means as needs arise. The funding streams are murkier in the case of the select panel, a temporary entity under the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It’s unclear how much money, if any, Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has directed from his budget to the select panel.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Upton’s spokespeople did not respond to questions from Rewire about full committee financial support for the ad hoc panel by publication time.

Administration Committee Democrats protested the original funding request and raised similar objections again this time, to no avail. The current action marks the second time the committee “decided without a public hearing or a proper vote to pay for the political attack on Planned Parenthood,” they said in a statement accompanying a trove of appeals to their Republican counterparts on the committee to stop the transfer.

Blackburn’s select panel spokesperson in an email to Rewire deferred all funding questions to the Administration Committee, including what Republicans intend to do with their share and whether their request marks an expansion of the investigation despite the limited number of days that Congress will be in session for the remainder of the year.

In a statement shared via panel spokesperson, Blackburn cited allegations she often makes about abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies trafficking in “baby body parts.” She also repeated a similar claim against the University of New Mexico, the subject of her recent criminal referral to the state’s attorney general.

“These disturbing findings are exactly why this investigation is warranted and we will continue to follow the facts in order to complete our report to Congress by the end of the year,” she said.

Blackburn’s reference to the end of the year signals that there’s an end in sight. The resolution creating the panel only specifies that activities will come to an end 30 days after filing a final report. An Upton spokesperson previously referenced the panel’s “one-year term” when Rewire reported on past fetal tissue attacks in Congress.

In any event, Blackburn must act before the resolution expires with the close of the 114th Congress in 2016. The House would have to vote next year, in the 115th Congress, to extend the current investigation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the select panel’s ranking member, condemned the latest funding request and the overall investigation.

“This has not been—nor will it ever be—a fact-based investigation,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “Instead the Panel is being run as a taxpayer-funded arm of anti-abortion groups, in pursuit of a partisan, anti-science, and anti-health care agenda. Enough is enough.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court Decision, After Pressure From Anti-Choice Leaders

Ally Boguhn

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—much to the lamentation of anti-choice advocates.

Donald Trump commented on the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week—but only after days of pressure from anti-choice advocates—and Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed explaining how one state’s then-pending decision on whether to fund Planned Parenthood illustrates the high stakes of the election for reproductive rights and health.

Following Anti-Choice Pressure, Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision

Trump finally broke his silence Thursday about the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week, which struck down two provisions of Texas’ HB 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that,” Trump claimed of the Court’s decision, evidently not realizing that the Monday ruling was 5 to 3 and one vote would not have made a numerical difference, during an appearance on conservative radio program The Mike Gallagher Show. “It would have been the opposite.” 

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“So just to confirm, under a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week?” asked host Mike Gallagher.

“No…you wouldn’t see that,” replied Trump, who also noted that the case demonstrated the important role the next president will play in steering the direction of the Court through judicial nominations.

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—prompting much lamentation from anti-choice advocates. Despite having promised to nominate anti-choice Supreme Court justices and pass anti-abortion restrictions if elected during a meeting with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders in New York City last week, Trump made waves among those who oppose abortion when he did not immediately comment on the Court’s Monday decision.

“I think [Trump’s silence] gives all pro-life leaders pause,” said the president of the anti-choice conservative organization The Family Leader, Bob Vander Plaats, prior to Trump’s comments Thursday, according to the Daily Beast. Vander Plaats, who attended last week’s meeting with Trump, went on suggest that Trump’s hesitation to weigh in on the matter “gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate—it gives them an unnecessary pause. There shouldn’t have to be a pause here.”

“This is the biggest abortion decision that has come down in years and Hillary Clinton was quick to comment—was all over Twitter—and yet we heard crickets from Donald Trump,” Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a Tuesday statement to the Daily Beast.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, expressed similar dismay on Wednesday that Trump hadn’t addressed the Court’s ruling. “So where was Mr. Trump, the candidate the pro-life movement is depending upon, when this blow hit?” wrote Hawkins, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. “He was on Twitter, making fun of Elizabeth Warren and lamenting how CNN has gone negative on him. That’s it. Nothing else.”

“Right now in the pro-life movement people are wondering if Mr. Trump’s staff is uninformed or frankly, if he just doesn’t care about the topic of life,” added Hawkins. “Was that meeting last week just a farce, just another one of his shows?”

Anti-choice leaders, however, were not the only ones to criticize Trump’s response to the ruling. After Trump broke his silence, reproductive rights leaders were quick to condemn the Republican’s comments.

“Donald Trump has been clear from the beginning—he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and said he believes a woman should be ‘punished’ if she has an abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has already endorsed Clinton for the presidency, in a statement on Trump’s comments. 

“Trump’s remarks today should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes women should have access to safe, legal abortion. Electing Trump means he will fight to take away the very rights the Supreme Court just ruled this week are constitutional and necessary health care,” continued Laguens.

In contrast to Trump’s delayed reaction, presumptive Democratic nominee Clinton tweeted within minutes of the landmark abortion rights decision, “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.”

Clinton Pens Op-Ed Defending Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire

Clinton penned an op-ed for the Concord Monitor Wednesday explaining that New Hampshire’s pending vote on Planned Parenthood funding highlighted “what’s at stake this election.”

“For half a century, Planned Parenthood has been there for people in New Hampshire, no matter what. Every year, it provides care to almost 13,000 people who need access to services like counseling, contraception, and family planning,” wrote Clinton. “Many of these patients cannot afford to go anywhere else. Others choose the organization because it’s the provider they know and trust.”

The former secretary of state went on to contend that New Hampshire’s Executive Council’s discussion of denying funds to the organization was more than “just playing politics—they’re playing with their constituents’ health and well-being.” The council voted later that day to restore Planned Parenthood’s contract.

Praising the Supreme Court’s Monday decision in Whole Woman’s Health, Clinton cautioned in the piece that although it was a “critical victory,” there is still “work to do as long as obstacles” remained to reproductive health-care access.

Vowing to “make sure that a woman’s right to make her own health decisions remains as permanent as all of the other values we hold dear” if elected, Clinton promised to work to protect Planned Parenthood, safeguard legal abortion, and support comprehensive and inclusive sexual education programs.

Reiterating her opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion care, Clinton wrote that she would “fight laws on the books” like it that “make it harder for low-income women to get the care they deserve.”

Clinton’s campaign noted the candidate’s support for repealing Hyde while answering a 2008 questionnaire provided by Rewire. During the 2016 election season, the federal ban on abortion funding became a more visible issue, and Clinton noted in a January forum that the ban “is just hard to justify” given that restrictions such as Hyde inhibit many low-income and rural women from accessing care.

What Else We’re Reading

Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher highlighted some of the potential problems Clinton could face should she choose former Virginia governor Tim Kaine as her vice presidential pickincluding his beliefs about abortion.

Foster Friess, a GOP mega-donor who once notoriously said that contraception is “inexpensive … you know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” is throwing his support behind Trump, comparing the presumptive Republican nominee to biblical figures.

Clinton dropped by the Toast on the publication’s last day, urging readers to follow the site’s example and “look forward and consider how you might make your voice heard in whatever arenas matter most to you.”

Irin Carmon joined the New Republic’s “Primary Concerns” podcast this week to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on the election.

According to analysis from the Wall Street Journal, the popularity of the Libertarian Party in this year’s election could affect the presidential race, and the most likely outcome is “upsetting a close race—most likely Florida, where the margin of victory is traditionally narrow.”

The Center for Responsive Politics’ Alec Goodwin gave an autopsy of Jeb Bush’s massive Right to Rise super PAC.

Katie McGinty (D), who is running against incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania, wrote an op-ed this week for the Philly Voice calling to “fight efforts in Pa. to restrict women’s access to health care.”

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against an attempt to restore voting rights to more than 20,000 residents affected by the state’s law disenfranchising those who previously served time for felonies, ThinkProgress reports.

An organization in Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of the almost 70,000 people there who have previously served time for felonies and are now on probation or parole, alleging that they are being “wrongfully excluded from registering to vote and voting.”