House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was confronted on the floor this evening by Republican Reps. Mary Bono Mack (Calif.) and Robert Dold (Ill.), who were livid he had scheduled a tough abortion vote, according to someone who witnessed the incident.
Both voted against the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have criminalized abortions in Washington, D.C., past 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“Are you kidding me? How many times are we going to vote on this?” Bono Mack told Cantor in the heated exchange, according to the witness.
The bill comes on the heels of a May vote on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which would have criminalized abortions on the basis of sex, gender or race.
The confrontation shows the frustration moderate Republicans have felt in taking politically risky show votes so close to the elections.
Bono Mack, Dold and Cantor could be seen having an animated conversation in the middle of the House floor for about 10 minutes.
When asked later why she confronted Cantor about the bill, Bono Mack said only that the conversation was about “politics.”
“My conversation was with the leader and it’s a private conversation,” she added.
Cantor’s office declined to comment, and Dold’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Bono Mack, a seven-term lawmaker, routinely votes against measures limiting abortion outright, but she has voted in favor of banning federal money from being used to fund the procedure.
Dold, a freshman, has followed that pattern. Bono Mack is being targeted by Democrats, while Dold faces an uphill climb to re-election in a Democratic-leaning district and has faced stark criticism from right-to-life groups for his votes on the issue.
Four other GOP Members voted against the bill while two other Republicans voted “present.” Seventeen Democrats voted in favor.
Still, the measure had wide support in the Republican Conference, with 222 co-sponsors. Only 220 Members voted for it, however, while 154 voted “no,” 55 did not vote and 2 voted “present.”
Both this bill and the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act failed because they were brought up under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
Driving home the difficulty of voting against the issue, the National Right to Life Committee released a statement immediately after the vote stating that, “154 House members will have to explain to their constituents why they voted to endorse a policy of legal abortion for any reason, until the moment of birth, in their nation’s capital.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the primary sponsor both bills, conceded that the votes could cost some Republican lawmakers their jobs, and he said he sympathizes with Republicans who have to take tough votes. But he said the vote is a net benefit because it would cost more Democrats in November.
“It will cost some people the election, but it will cost more Democrats the election than it will Republicans,” he said. “I’m convinced that in very few districts in America will someone lose because they voted to protect a pain-capable baby from torture. And if that’s the case, maybe they need a different district anyways.”