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Counterproductive

Issue: "Rebel with a cause," Jan. 30, 1998

Everyone knew the battle in Palm Springs would be difficult. But when Reps. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Charles Canady (R-Fla.) opined that the partial-birth resolution was ill-conceived, the whole attempt proved-well, abortive.

Mr. Hyde had been somewhat conciliatory on the abortion issue before. But what would move Mr. Canady, a committed believer and original sponsor of the partial-birth bill, to oppose the Lambert resolution? While other prominent Republicans cited the need for party unity and the danger of establishing a litmus test, Mr. Canady offered only a single justification: The resolution would actually make it harder to save the lives of babies.

"I'm sympathetic to the point Mr. Lambert is trying to make, but this particular mechanism is likely to be counterproductive," he told WORLD. "If it had passed, it would have been more difficult to pass the partial-birth abortion ban into law."

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How so? Only three additional votes in the Senate are needed to override a presidential veto, Mr. Canady explained. Although some Democrats-most notably New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan-are coming around, the Republican Party still presents the best opportunity for finding those three votes. But passage of the Lambert resolution would have made it politically impossible for any Republicans to reverse their position, since they would have been accused of selling out in order to get RNC funds. "They could not be put in the position of appearing to cave in to campaign blackmail," the Florida congressman said. "In this battle, we will win through persuasion and not intimidation. The resolution could only be perceived as an attempt to intimidate."

The alternative? "Go into Republican primaries and wage battles against those who support partial-birth abortion," Mr. Canady said. It worked for Tom Bordonaro, despite a 4-to-1 spending disadvantage. In the struggle for the soul of the Republican Party, the ballot box may ultimately prove more important than the purse strings.

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