The 114th Congress elected last November includes 246 Republicans in the House of Representatives, the most since 1947. But with such a large tent, it’s evident that there will be disagreements between moderates and conservatives — and between the GOP-controlled House and Senate, and such tensions are evident just three weeks into the new session.
Take the anti-abortion bill known as the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The overwhelming majority of House Republicans were good with changing the law (currently the ban is after 24 weeks), but problems arose this week when sponsors said that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement.
Reports surfaced that over two dozen GOP House members had a problem with that provision, including Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly.
“That’s a hard issue for me,” Jolly acknowledged while speaking to constituents at a town hall meeting Friday morning at the Del Sol Yacht and Country Club located in St. Petersburg. “God forbid anybody in my family have to go through that. I can’t imagine what that would be like to face that decision.” Jolly said it was excessive to mandate that a woman come forward and file a report after such an incident, alluding to reports that only one out of three women actually do so. “We can come up with a better solution to that. That language is a challenge.”
Left unsaid was why Republicans would even want to delve into such divisive social issues in their first month back in the majority of both houses of Congress.
Another contentious issue inside the party is immigration. President Obama’s executive order that would shield up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation enraged House Republicans last November, and they have reacted by passing a bill that would block that from happening. Those provisions are included in a bill that would cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the sprawling agency that secures U.S. borders, airports and coastal waters, at the end of February. House Republicans also supported an amendment in that bill that would have ended Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, which helps undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. But 26 House Republicans joined with Democrats to oppose that amendment, including South Florida Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen.
Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel blasted House Republicans in her column today, entitled “Obama’s Immigration Trap.” She writes that the legislation “does nothing to tackle the real source of undocumented immigrants — those who overstay visas,” adding that “what the bill does do is send the message that Republicans are in favor of walling off the country, and — let’s not forget — deporting small children.”
Jolly expressed some indignation about the now GOP-controlled U.S. Senate on immigration. “The House had done its work on the defund. The Senate needs to act as well,” he said.
The CD 13 U.S. representative also told the audience of approximately 50 people about a border security bill that will be brought up next week, and he sounded worried that it would upset some factions on immigration. “I find it mind-blowing that within our caucus we’re going to have this fight.”
Jolly says a provision in this border security bill would require operational control of the border within the next five years. One of the control measures in the bill says that political appointees would bar appointees who miss the security targets from traveling on government jets or attending conferences.
The congressman also touched on Common Core, veterans issues, his bill to repeal the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and the president’s proposal for tax increases to pay for providing free community college tuition to students. That was one of the big policy proposals mentioned in President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week, a proposal and a speech that Jolly brutally dismissed.
“For me the State of the Union is almost like the Miami-Florida State game every year,” he said. “I set my calendar by it. I really appreciate the historic moment of the State of the Union address. I think this State of the Union address will be one of the more forgettable moments in this administration.”