Dispatches > The Buzz

Climbing the Hill

Pro-life legislators inch ahead on Capitol Hill committees

Issue: "America's best & worst," Feb. 1, 2003

A Republican majority does not necessarily a pro-life majority make. Advocates for life are watching closely as committee rosters for the 108th Congress take shape, especially on the influential Judiciary, Commerce, and Appropriations panels.

Pending confirmation by the Republican Conference, House membership recommendations maintain a strongly pro-life Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the proposed partial-birth abortion ban. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, with oversight of cloning issues, gains four pro-life Republicans (Mike Ferguson of New Jersey, Darrell Issa of California, Butch Otter of Idaho, and Mike Rogers of Michigan), yielding a tally of 29 pro-life, 23 pro-abortion, and five members with mixed voting records.

The ratio is less decisive on the House Appropriations Committee, which will decide on funding related to life issues. Of the new Republicans, four are pro-life (Ander Crenshaw and Dave Weldon of Florida, John Culberson of Texas, and Mike Simpson of Idaho), while Mark Kirk of Illinois is aggressively pro-abortion. With one new pro-life Democrat (Marion Berry of Arkansas) added to its ranks, the Appropriations Committee counts 29 each for the pro-life and pro-abortion ranks, as well as another seven members who have mixed records.

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Meanwhile, control of Senate committees has shifted to Republicans. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship returns to Orrin Hatch of Utah, who opposes abortion but supports cloning. Added to its ranks are first-term Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and John Cornyn of Texas, all pro-life.

John McCain of Arizona, who has a pro-life record, will chair the Senate Commerce Committee. Pro-life Republican John Sununu of New Hampshire joins his committee, as does pro-abortion Democrat Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. The Senate Appropriations Committee gains pro-life leader Sam Brownback, although it still lacks a clear pro-life majority. Pro-life advocates are hopeful about the change in Senate leadership. "At the very least, it promises debate on important pro-life issues," said Jayd Henricks of the Family Research Council.

-Jennifer Marshall is a policy analyst and writer in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer Marshall

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