Pro-Life Activists Angry Over GOP Support for Sebelius

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 6:00 am
sebelius-brownback

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) (Center for American Progress Action Fund, WDCpix)

The battle against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.), President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has gone better than many pro-life activists had hoped. Yes, it’s true that Sebelius is expected to be confirmed after an eight-hour debate and cloture vote are held in the Senate today. It’s also true that activists have not managed to dislodge the support of Sebelius’s home state senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Republicans — an embarrassing setback that has prevented the Sebelius nomination from becoming quite the abortion rights showdown that they had hoped for. But they can count some small victories.

Image by: Matt Mahurin

Image by: Matt Mahurin

“Going into this, there didn’t seem to be any opposition,” said Wendy Wright, the president of Conservative Women for America. “I was at her hearing, and that morning, I was reading news reports about how she was going to ‘sail through’ the Senate. Now I’m reading reports about the ‘controversy’ around Kathleen Sebelius. You can attribute that to what the grassroots have done here.”

After two months of pounding from pro-life groups, and two self-inflicted wounds by the nominee, opponents of Sebelius believe that they took a safe nomination and turned it into a controversial one. They have elevated Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor who is notorious in Kansas for performing late-term operations, into a figure of national infamy. Sebelius’s payment of $7,000 in back taxes was a minor setback, but misstating how much campaign cash she had received from Tiller turned Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who often defer to presidents on their nominees, from “aye” to “no” on today’s vote to end debate and proceed to a full vote on the nomination.

Before that vote, the anti-Sebelius coalition will hold a press conference on the Hill making the case against her. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) will make public a letter of opposition to the nomination that, as of press time, eight other conservatives had signed. Still, opponents of the governor have been frustrated by the early and consistent support for Sebelius from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), a social conservative who is retiring in 2010 to run for governor of Kansas.

“This nomination should be more unpopular than it is,” grumbled one GOP Senate aide. “Brownback’s hesitation and his months of holding off on substantive criticism of Sebelius has basically frozen the ability of pro-life senators to fight as hard as they would like to. It’s tough. It’s very difficult for the pro-life leader in the Senate to mobilize his allies when he’s moving in the other direction.”

Brownback’s support for Sebelius has evolved slightly since his original, full-throated endorsement of Sebelius. While his office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, he told Congressional Quarterly that supporting Sebelius was getting “harder and harder” after she vetoed a partial-birth abortion ban passed by the Republican-run state legislature.

That hasn’t been enough for pro-life activists. In March, the Family Research Council reacted to Brownback’s support for Sebelius by pulling out of the Senate’s weekly Values Action Team meetings. “We’ll be extremely disappointed if Sen. Brownback doesn’t change his mind,” said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for FRC. “That will play a role in any of our future work with him.”

Because Brownback is leaving the Senate, pro-life activists had been looking to build new alliances in the chamber even before the Sebelius nomination came up. “There needs to be somebody to take over for all the work that Brownback is doing,” said McCluskey. “How soon will they have to take over? Well, that could be decided as a result of this vote.”

The national politics of the Sebelius fight have been complicated, from the beginning, by the politics of Kansas, still home to some of the most pugnacious pro-life groups in America. While the nominee’s political support from George Tiller was known and debated throughout her 2006 bid for reelection — Sebelius won by 17 points — pro-life groups have been able to stoke national controversy with the help of Fox News (Tiller was the target of an ambush on “The O’Reilly Factor” in 2007), local activists, and the complications of Kansas medical law.

The news that Sebelius had under-reported her donations from Tiller was originally reported in a Kansas Catholic circular, The Leaven, in an article that was immediately passed up the food chain. Sebelius opponents have been able to say that Tiller is “under investigation” not because he has been convicted of a crime — he was acquitted of performing illegal operations only weeks ago — but because the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts has taken the prerogative of re-filing the legal challenges against Tiller. While the Board is not explicitly political, spokeswoman Sheryl Snyder explained how its challenges work to TWI before quickly adding, “I have my own opinions about Tiller.”

Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who worked for Sebelius in 2005, argued that the “vindictive prosecutions” against Tiller are a mainstay of Kansas politics, and that Brownback’s support of the governor’s nomination made sense in the context of his next political steps.

“He’s running for governor and there’s no one on his right,” said Loomis. “I mean, you could barely get to the right of Sam Brownback if you wanted to. So he’s throwing a bone to moderate Republicans by not standing in way of a moderate Democratic governor. He’d like to have her in the administration and not running for Senate next year and ginning up Democratic turnout.”

It’s all a bit much for Kansas activists to stomach. “Those guys in Washington don’t think like we do in Kansas,” said David Gittrich, the long-serving state development director of Kansans for Life. “It might be smart politically to get the governor out of Kansas, but it’s really hard for me to wish her on the nation. I’d rather have Hillary Clinton running health care than Kathleen Sebelius.”

According to Gittrich, when Brownback turns his sights on the governor’s race he’ll gave to “reestablish his credentials as a pro-lifer” and explain his vote. “All the pro-life votes in the world don’t make up for supporting Kathleen Sebelius,” said Gittrich. “This is like saying, ‘I’m against the Holocaust and Nazi Germany but I’d like Hitler to be in charge of the health care center.’”

In other words, pro-life activists are girding themselves for Sebelius to be confirmed. The campaign has “galvanized the base,” according to McCluskey, even if it ends in defeat today. Late in the day, Sebelius opponents brushed aside the criticism that the government’s response to the swine flu panic might have been complicated by this pitched battle over abortion rights. According to Wesley Denton, a spokesman for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the president knew that the Sebelius nomination would be a flashpoint for criticism.

“If the president wanted to avoid ideological fights,” said Denton, “he shouldn’t be nominating divisive ideological nominees.”

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Comments

45 Comments

RCharles
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 4:16 am

Kansas continues to drift back in time, unable to adapt to the reality of a secular democracy. Gov. Sebelius has an outstanding record and will be strong advocate for improved health and human services. Like President Obama, she leave abortion decisions to women as their individual and personal right to decide.

I do not consider he a “divisive ideological nominee” but a strong candidate who will win confirmation.

RCharles


The Reverend
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 4:17 am

You right wingers should worry more about your ailing economy (Thank your beloved Fuhrer Bush for that) and your bullshit healthcare programs that leave out the less fortunate and the very poor and only favor the very rich. (and you think this shit's okay) You mean to tell me if someone gets sick or is severly injured, and they don't havge a penny to their name or no insurance you're just gonna let them suffer? If I get shot in the middle of bumfuck Baltimore by a ghetto “gangsta” insurgent and I have three feet of my intestines hanging out of me from being shot the you're gonna tell me I can either fork up $75,000 so you can attempt to save my life or you're just gonna let me die on the curbside, wtf? If I have lukemia and cant afford a bone marrow transplant because I live in michigan where there are no jobs and hence no health insurance unless you work for GM and you're not going to save me because I don't have the money. you're just gonna send em to hospice and thats it. and you Reich-Wingers support a healthcare system as such. you're here complaining about this woman being pro-choice and liberal and supporying this thing you people call the “Obamanation” (please, fucking haters) and our country is going to hell in a handbasket (not because of mr. Obama, but because of the errors of your kind) and all you can base your outrages on is a few dead fetuses? Give me a break.


J.P.BOSWELL
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 5:27 am

tTYPICAL OF ALL POLITICANS,LIKE BROWNBCK,PUTTING HIS PERSONAL DESIRES,i.e.GOVENOR OF KANSAS, BEFORE THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY. WEAKENING THE REPUBLICAN MINORITY AS WELL ALONG THE WAY. WHAT A GUY. ME.ME.ME. FIRST ALWAYS!!!


Billy P
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 5:40 am

just dead fetuses, no big deal right Rev ? And you're calling others haters ? Your politics are blinding you from truth.


Ted
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 5:41 am

ProLife/ProChoice politics aside, Sebelius' problems with taxes and misreporting campaign contributions should have disqualified her. What does it say about the Obama administration that they can't seem to find any public servants with a D after their name who don't have some sort of tax problem?

A lot.


Prudence
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 5:43 am

You don't like abortion? Don't have one! I don't like guns, so I don't buy them!

That's what individual freedoms are all about, people. Suck it up.


Dickie Flatts
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 5:50 am

Silly wingnuts.

… And the Republicans wonder why they have become a regional party of angry white people.


Rapscallion
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 6:10 am

These pro-life people make no sense to me at all.

I will never understand where these people get off trying to shove their opinions down the throats of everyone else.


Rapscallion
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 6:15 am

I think your going to have a hard time finding any politician that doesn't have some sort of legal problem these days, It's just a matter of how deep you are going to dig to find it. I don't believe party affiliation has anything to do with the epidemic of corruption in our government.


Shaggy
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 6:48 am

And the pro-abortion folks aren't?

How about a taxing all of us to pay for a foreign policy which encourages overturning anti-abortion laws in other countries? Removing conscience-protection rules which currently allow doctors who are pro-life from performing or recommending abortions?


Shaggy
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 6:55 am

Don't like rapists? Don't be one. Don't like arsonists? Don't start a fire. Suck it up.

How far do you want to take this argument?

The Supreme Court really screwed up when they declared that mothers have the freedom to kill their children. The current administration wants to go way beyond that and have the taxpayers fund it and force doctors and hospitals to take part in it.


anthony
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 7:07 am

First of all, there is no such thing as “pro abortion”. We support the right of a woman to choose. It is pro choice. As an example, if you recognize that someone whose opinion you disagree with such as nazis or the Klan, has the same first amendment rights as you do, does that make you pro nazi or pro first amendment? There is a big difference.

In any case, the argument about tax dollars is meaningless. We all pay taxes to support programs we dislike. Give me the choice to dictate where my tax dollars go, and you can have the same choice too.


anthony
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 7:12 am

Pro lifers would have more credibility if they demonstrated that they are in fact pro life instead of just pro life. With all of the cheering and flag waving in the run upt to the war in Iraq, did any pro lifers express any concern about the innocent Iraqis who might die in such a war.

Did any pro lifers offer assistance to the octo mom. She did not have an abortion, so you would think pro lifers would have been pleased and jumped in to help this woman to demonstrate that there are alternatives for women considering abortion. But no, pro lifers and the rest of the righ wing condemned octo mom for receiving government assistance and having no husband.

Pro lifers needs to demonstrate some concern for human life outside of the womb.


anthony
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 7:22 am

meant to say “pro life instead of just pro BIRTH”


Madtown Madam
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 7:23 am

Shaggy you are an idiot. Re-read your post. It makes zero sense. Take that argument to it's end is exactly what we are saying. “Don't like rapists, don't be one” WTF! Your logic is sophomoric at best. How much gov't do you want? We have the Patriot Act which “your” Messiah Bush put into effect. Now you want the gov't in our Dr.'s office or at least a woman's Dr.'s office. Your “Christian” belief system has been suppressing woman long enough. Mary Magdalen was not a whore but a scholar who Jesus saw as an equal. A priest gave the title of whore. Why? Because you “Christians”, since Roman times, have been about nothing Jesus taught but have been about control. Get out of my bedroom and out of my Dr.'s office and get back into your church and learn some history about your faith! Sebelius job description has nothing to do w/ abortion anyway! This fight is nothing more than publicity for the dying belief system you espouse.


basementfrog
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 7:55 am

They, in fact, may have a shot if Palin can maneuver her helicopter close enough for a shot with one of her scope-equipped high powered rifles.

The anti abortionist crowd, by even using Sarah Palin as their mascot, demonstrates that they see nothing wrong with killing; it's just a matter of who and when.

But not only is Sarah Palin willing to kill humans as well as animals, but she is also willing for profits sake to destroy one of the most beautiful natural environments God created.

Isn't this the same Sarah that a month ago said she contemplated having an abortion in a state where she wasn't known? Didn't she claim to be for choice in doing so? Or is this the choice of the rich? That is, I can go overseas (or in Ronald Reagan's or George Bush's cases their daughters can go to Brazil or Sweden) where there will be no record, but the poor must be prosecuted and publically humiliated, or forced to do the abortions in their homes or in public restrooms using coat hangers to dig into their uterus, possibly causing internal hemorrhage, permanent damange or even death.

Her claims to any concern for life is a hypocritical sham and her invoking God's name is blasphemy, a crime in the eyes of God that she apparently doesn't know about.


Obstructionists
Pingback posted April 28, 2009 @ 9:34 am

[...] intense lobbying by pro-life groups, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is expected to garner the 60 Senate votes needed to confirm [...]


Debi
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 8:41 am

Hmmmmm, let's see… Most of the Rabid Right supports both our military involvement in the Gulf and capital punishment. But they're “pro life”….? I don't get it. Are only the lives of unborn American babies precious?


Shaggy
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

Please don't put me in the Bush camp. I have plenty of criticism for both major parties.

It's not immoral to speak out against something that's wrong. When my government is actively setting policies and using my tax dollars to advance murder of innocent children, don't I have an obligation to speak out? It's not enough to put my head in the sand and say “at least I'm not party to it”.

Where does Mary Magdalene enter into this? The Catholic Church recognizes her as a saint.

Encouraging women to love and raise their children is not suppressing women.


Shaggy
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

Call it pro-choice if you want. Call it pro-killing-babies. Put whatever name on it makes you feel comfortable with it.

Don't you have the right to complain about taxes? I don't want my tax dollars killing babies. I'm going to say something about it. If you don't like your taxes to go to AIG, or an unjust war, I hope you say something too.


teo
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

what planet are you on?

Seriously. Sebelius is not a controversial nominee. She is not controversial at all. The right, though, is desperate for any form of attention so they use little tools at their disposal: a hold here, a stall tactic there. And, before you know it, it's freaking April 28 and we have no HHS secretary. But, it doesn't change the fact that Sebelius is not a controversial nominee.


America the FREE
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

Since all my neggative Obama remarks get taken off this site.Obama is best….I love poverty….Capitalism is bad even though it advances human condition….Socialism Rules


Deanna
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

…a victory? Really? They lost LOL
They will never change the fact that the majority of people in this country do not support them. They never will….so when do they “win”? Never they just obstruct and their party gets smler and smaller.


Deanna
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

The GOP has gotten smaller and smaller and appears to now only be the party of Nutters, Right Wingers and the Uneducated…….how sad.


anthony
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

Guess they better get over it. Governor Sibelius was confirmed around 3pm pacific time today (April 28 2009)

Sorry right wingers, you lose. Again….


America the FREE
Comment posted April 28, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

Unrelated.I bet the statists use swine flu as another crisis.They only fool the left though.I see everything.PS Good job flying over 911 site.This is a smart congress.NOT


Brownback More Disgusting Than Spector | The Pink Flamingo
Pingback posted April 29, 2009 @ 1:44 am

[...] that to the murdered babies. “…Because Brownback is leaving the Senate, pro-life activists had been looking to build new alliances in the chamber even before the Sebelius [...]


ed
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 6:11 am

Thats what the left does for gays,and the envirement,among anything or anyone that disagrees with the Obama poverty tour.


ed
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 7:00 am

Speaking of Right Wingers.Seen an artical about David Duke KKK idiot being called that.If you hate Israel,seek total government power,and keep the blacks from success,does't that make you a Democrat


jenzinoh
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 10:25 am

“Speaking of Right Wingers.Seen an artical about David Duke KKK idiot being called that.If you hate Israel,seek total government power,and keep the blacks from success,does't that make you a Democrat”

Ed, if you think for a moment that David Duke is a Democrat, you truly are an idiot. That does not mean he is a mainstream Republican either. It means he is one of those right-wing extremists that the DHS report was about. So was Timothy McVeigh and Rev. Fred Phelps.

As to the abortion issue… what the Anti-abortion people fail to realize is that the GOP has no desire to overturn abortion rights… no matter their rhetoric on the issue. They would lose a key voting wedge issue if they did that. In fact, it would turn restoring abortion rights into a voting issue… one the GOP would be on the losing end of.


ed
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 11:25 am

Idiots this the political chart………………………….. Tyranny-communism-socialism-democrat-republican-conservative-freedom


ed
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 11:28 am

hitler was left wing just like stalin,chavev,oritega,obama conservatism is one step from freedom…….retards


Dick Hertz
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

What color was the Kool-Aid you drank? Hitler was a right wing corporatist, following Mussolini whose Fascist movement declared the primacy of a corporate-government alliance. Hitler's other inspiration was Henry Ford, whose combination of self-interested worker's pay increases, based on the premise that no one will buy a car if they cannot afford it, and profound anti-Jewish racism (Ford's racist publications and newspapers are still in the attics and junk shops of Michigan) was a gift to the budding politician. Hitler was a conservative.
Stalin was a seminarian in his youth and well understood the power of religion, which in Russia is very conservative. His political goal was to overthrow the Bolsheviks who desired the utopian socialism that was promised and put himself in as a kind of atheist Pope. In essence, Stalin was in many ways very conservative.
Conservatives do not like freedom, in practice or in their philosophy. Republicans are pretty overt about their distaste for freedom, most obvious when they are caught abusing freedom (e.g. freedom as license as in licentiousness, http://www.armchairsubversive.com) or in the process of narrowing or eliminating the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, our ” God given” rights. Often this is done through legislation like the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and in other less Orwellian legislation. We still have no right of Habeus Corpus-Obama could declare ed an enemy combatant tonight and he would disappear to some secret base for torture, beatings, waterboarding, instrumental rape (forced insertion of suppository drugs), stress positions (chained naked to a bar in a refrigerated room for days, defecating and urinating on yourself). Ed would never get a trial, never know why he was taken, and potentially never seen again, dying in custody as a result of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a direct translation from the Gestapo, as many Bush family turns of phrase seem to originate). I'm suspicious ed has been eating yellowcake uranium to turn himself into a dirty suicide bomber-so what if I have no evidence? No one will ever know, just like the hundreds of other disappeareds.


ed
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

I see both parties say the same thing about the other.In school the political chart was stated Tyranny–Communism–Socialism–Democrat—Repub–Conserv–Freedom


ed
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

I know many educated black republicans.Tour the rasist


skylights
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

Someone needs to teach all these know-nothing conservatives Godwin's Law. Sebelius is like Hitler! Uh, no.

I'm from Kansas (the non-crazy 3rd District with a Democratic representative) and I'm proud to see Sebelius moving on up. Kansas is a strange political landscape. It's notoriously conservative, as documented in “What's the Matter With Kansas?”, but it elected and re-elected a fairly progressive Democratic governor. It's the home base of Fred Phelps and a stronghold of evolution deniers, but also the home of one of the nation's few late-term abortionists. It has three major parties: Democrats, Republicans, and sane Republicans. The Democrats and sane Republicans have been ganging up on the “normal,” insane Republicans for some time now. Overall, it's not as right wing here as its reputation. Of course, that may not prevent Brownback from becoming governor. Shudder.


Lamborn mobilizes conservatives on HHS nominee Sebelius fight, bombs out
Pingback posted April 30, 2009 @ 12:43 am

[...] minced no words as he picked up the mantle for angry antiabortion activists fighting the Sebelius nomination tooth and [...]


scared dem
Comment posted April 30, 2009 @ 5:57 am

The squabling over Abortion-Gay Rights-War Protesting-Waterboarding-Ect has got to stop.Does anyone know the trouble our economy is in.My niece is 19 years old and will pay roughly 121,000 dollars on interest from the budget.Our standard of living is going to be halved.Our heath system will collapse under the weight of this plan.Our energy costs are going up at least 1000 dollars a year.In 2 years the new tax rate will be 60% for the rich and 40% for the rest of us.Inflation is going to sky-rocket as soon as the economy picks up,but not untill unemployment hits 15% in 2010-2011.And everyone is talking about back-burner issues,WAKE UP AMERICA.


scared dem
Comment posted April 30, 2009 @ 9:05 am

you vote for higher taxes,and energy costs.universal healthcare,and Socialism,which has never worked in any other country,and you have the balls to call some people un-educated.THATS RICH.


millgrist
Comment posted May 1, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

GOP activist: ” Now I’m reading reports about the ‘controversy’ around Kathleen Sebelius. You can attribute that to what the grassroots have done here.””

Yeah and thanks so very much for interfering in government function by slowing a key presidential appointment during an infectious disease outbreak …. achieving …. nothing at all. Only loss, no gain.

There are so many important things our government must address …. but some people – many are Republicans – only care about other peoples' fetuses, the hell with everybody and everything else. Or reducing their tax bill. GOP has nothing else.

i hold the obstructionists in strong contempt.


millgrist
Comment posted May 1, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

That scaling is pathetically simplistic.

Conservatives wanted the colonies to remain loyal to the king. They didn't want women to have equal rights. They didn't want working poor to have minimum wage or maximum work week. They didn't want African-heritage Americans to have equal rights. They didn't want poor people accused of crimes to be informed of their constitutional rights, or have actual access to an attorney.

The idea that conservatives are closest to freedom is silly – they consistently oppose other peoples' freedom.


me
Comment posted May 2, 2009 @ 3:51 am

A woman in my office found out she had an aggressive cancer 15 weeks into her pregnancy. She had to choose between aborting the baby to get chemotherapy vs. continuing the pregnancy and potentially dying before or just after the child was born. She opted for the late-term abortion (or what nutters call “partial birth”) and saved her life.

It was the toughest decision of her life and everyone supported her, including me. Life is complicated. I don't know why wingnuts don't get it.


me
Comment posted May 2, 2009 @ 10:51 am

A woman in my office found out she had an aggressive cancer 15 weeks into her pregnancy. She had to choose between aborting the baby to get chemotherapy vs. continuing the pregnancy and potentially dying before or just after the child was born. She opted for the late-term abortion (or what nutters call “partial birth”) and saved her life.

It was the toughest decision of her life and everyone supported her, including me. Life is complicated. I don't know why wingnuts don't get it.


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Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 11:15 am

There are so many important things our government must address …. but some people – many are Republicans – only care about other peoples' fetuses, the hell with everybody and everything else. Or reducing their tax bill. GOP has nothing else.


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