A rebellion from self-described “Blue Dog” Democrats in the House caucus means that the party will not take a position on a parental consent bill.
At least for now.
Democratic leader Kionne McGhee stressed “party unity” and the “big tent” in comments to members ahead of Wednesday’s floor session, saying that the Democratic Party is big enough for differing views on issues, apparently including abortion.
“I know often many people want to pit us against each other,” McGhee said.
“Our diversity is our strength. And being that we are a diversified caucus inside of a big tent, of course there are issues we cannot and do not agree on.”
McGhee said this issue, which has divided the caucus for more than a week, is a “teachable moment.”
He urged people disagreeing not to call people out by name, but to “have a brief conversation behind closed doors.”
“A caucus position is a very complex, strategic tool … that we use when we are unified in our beliefs,” McGhee said, urging people to consider from where legislators hail and who they represent.
Despite most Democrats opposing the parental consent bill, the position is not unified. And won’t be.
The measure (HB 265) would require parental consent before minors could undergo abortion procedures. The bill is in second reading in the House after its sole committee stop, and not every Democrat is in opposition.
A Wednesday presser saw Rep. Kim Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat who broke with her caucus to support the requirement, making the case with primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Erin Grall.
Daniels asked “how dare any caucus position or any other position try to shut my mouth,” adding details about her own botched abortion as a teenager — one obtained with a forged signature from her mother.
“There are some in my caucus who have no respect for me as a representative for my district … no respect for my values as a believer. They want to make me vote with them, and that ain’t happening,” Daniels said.
She went on to decry “caucus critics” for saying they are trying to “get her” for this and other positions that deviate from the caucus, such as on LGBTQ issues.
“What’s happening to me, it goes ignored, when it is literal religious discrimination,” Daniels said, calling out “far-left special interest groups.”
“This is a message to the Anna Eskamanis and Cindy Polos who are so far left they get left behind,” Daniels continued, saying she wanted to move beyond “the political okey doke” and “meet in the middle.”
Sen. Kelli Stargel is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill (SB 404.)
Stargel took questions on the bill, which is on the Special Order Calendar, Wednesday. Democrats floated a number of amendments.
However, a vote won’t come until next week.
Democrats will watch what happens in the Senate and may take a position later.
But on Wednesday, with the bill headed toward floor votes, McGhee demurred.