Jun 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

GOP grapples with how to fight Schumer show votes

 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) answers questions following the weekly Republican policy luncheon

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) answers questions following the weekly Republican policy luncheon. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Republican senators are starting to demand a new strategy to counter the string of politically tough votes being forced on them by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Why it matters: Republicans have bashed votes on the border and reproductive rights as partisan moves by Democrats in a hotly-contested election year. But some want to fight back, harder.

Zoom in: Some Republicans want to turn the tables on Schumer by voting yes on future messaging bills — and then demanding votes on their own political priorities through amendments.

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) raised the idea of running the play on Wednesday's vote on contraception access during the GOP weekly lunch on Tuesday, sparking division and debate over the best strategy, sources familiar told Axios.
  • GOP Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) pushed back, saying Republicans should keep the focus on the border and inflation, as Punchbowl News first reported.
  • GOP leadership generally sees most Republicans wanting to avoid dragging out a conversation about contraception access, one leadership aide told Axios.

What to watch: More politically tough votes are coming, which could trigger new strategies from GOP leadership.

  • Schumer has indicated he'll bring a bill to the floor protecting access to in vitro fertilization — an issue Republicans have rallied behind this year as an opportunity to support reproductive rights.

What they're saying: "In my ideal world... we'd have 49 members voting on the motion to proceed," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told Axios. "And then we would put forth a lot of amendments to address the extreme position of the Democrats."

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told Axios: "There's been some discussion of that. What it takes is a consensus... But yeah, that would be one of the options."
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) also supports the strategy and blasted a "complete lack of leadership" over how to respond to Schumer's show vote strategy so far in a short interview with Axios.
  • "A half hour conversation organized a day before a vote like this is grossly inadequate, and I'm getting tired of it," said Johnson, a frequent critic of GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Between the lines: Democrats will pick up some Republicans on Wednesday's vote — with at least Collins and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) joining.

  • "If it's a messaging bill, my message is I support a woman's access to contraception. Pretty simple," Murkowski told reporters.
  • She acknowledged others in her conference may have other messages, but "I don't want anyone to be confused."

Go deeper: Scoop: GOP campaign arm's birth control message

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