U.S. House Dems’ campaign chief says GOP moderates are ducking talk on abortion, guns

As they try to protect vulnerable incumbents, Republicans also are trying to avoid alienating suburban swing voters

By: - June 1, 2022 12:22 pm
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WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 19: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., questions Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony during the third day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin – Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Democrat in charge of keeping the chamber blue in November’s midterm elections said Tuesday that Republicans running in suburban swing districts are trying to “hide” their views on abortion and gun legislation from voters.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said during a call with regional reporters that GOP candidates in centrist districts have begun downplaying the impact of a potential Supreme Court ruling that would end five decades of nationwide abortion protections.

They’re also trying to avoid discussing whether Congress should pass new gun laws following two mass shootings, said Maloney, of New York.

“That (abortion) issue, overwhelmingly in suburban swing districts, is a very bad issue for the Republicans, as it should be. Because it’s a disaster for our country to take away 50 years of guaranteed reproductive freedom,” Maloney said. “But you will see them try to hide those positions from suburban swing voters, who really have a problem with that.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling within the next month on whether a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks violates the Constitution.

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The Republican-nominated justices, however, are expected to possibly overturn nationwide abortion protections the Supreme Court has twice ruled are a fundamental right, according to a leaked majority draft opinion published by Politico.

That would return decisions about whether pregnant people can access abortion to the states, leading to a patchwork of laws.

Maloney, in charge of keeping 34 at-risk Democrats in office and retaining Democratic control of the U.S. House, said Republicans in purple districts are similarly downplaying the need for new gun laws.

“The same is true on gun safety legislation,” Maloney said. “I think you will see those issues play a big role in this election. And they are a problem for the Republicans, who are badly out of step for the country.”

Republicans in Congress, led by Texas Sen. John Cornyn, are in talks to reach a bipartisan agreement with Democrats on gun legislation, though similar talks have failed to change gun laws during the past few years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters in his home state Tuesday that negotiators are “discussing how we might be able to come together to target the problem, which is mental illness and school safety.”

McConnell also commented on the midterm elections during a speech to the Rotary Club in ​​Maysville, Ky., saying that if Republicans “have fully electable candidates on the ballot in November… there’s a decent chance that the country will change directions.”

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“Typically the party of the president loses seats two years into a first term,” he said. “How many seats sort of depends on the overall atmosphere. And I think the American people, at least so far, have not given the Biden administration good grades.”

Maloney said the DCCC plans to roll out a more national Democratic message this summer, though he doesn’t expect that will change the way Democrats in competitive districts talk to voters about how they’re “getting the job done.”

But unless Democrats keep control of the U.S. House, which political pundits and pollsters see as an uphill battle, and gain at least 10 seats in the U.S. Senate, an unlikely prospect, they won’t have the votes to get abortion rights legislation, or sweeping gun legislation, to President Joe Biden.

Maloney said Tuesday that when he talks about Democrats “getting the job done” he’s “referring to saving the American economy, making historic investments in our infrastructure and bringing back millions of jobs that were shipped overseas.”

Democrats’ continued control of both chambers of Congress, he noted, would prevent Republicans from passing nationwide abortion restrictions.

“We just want to protect Roe v. Wade. The Republicans want to ban abortion in all 50 states,” Maloney said. “That is a choice. I think that people understand, and it starts by not going backwards.”

Maloney was optimistic about moderate Democrats’ chances of getting reelected, saying the overall map of redrawn U.S. House districts is “better for Democrats after redistricting than it was before.”

Democrats in the so-called DCCC frontline program, which provides resources to members at risk of losing their U.S. House seat to a Republican, are also doing well fundraising, he noted.

The 34 Democrats in the program have $123 million on hand for campaigning while the Republicans challenging, or hoping to challenge them, have $32 million, he said.

Maloney did admit that Democrats are facing a challenge addressing voters’ concerns about inflation.

“It’s a big deal everywhere and, and there’s no happy talking it. It’s a problem,” Maloney said. “Working people are really struggling with gas and groceries in particular.”

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.