110th Congress Recap: Judging the Candidates By Their Votes


As the 2008 presidential campaign
closes in on Election Day, the candidates and their running mates are
making their final pitches to the public.  Despite intense
media coverage, dueling political commercials and debate fever many voters struggle
to define each candidate’s position on a variety of topics.  But since John McCain, Barack Obama and Obama’s running mate Joe Biden serve
in the United States Senate, we have the benefit of their voting records
to review. 

An examination of the sexual and reproductive health
related legislation taken up by the Senate during the 110th
Congress identifies the Senate’s focus regarding choice and the candidates’
positions.  NARAL Pro-Choice America tracks choice-related
legislation and has put together a report (NARAL Pro-Choice
America Congressional Record on Choice, 110th Congress, 1st Session
) detailing the measures introduced and each Senator’s
votes.

Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) offered an amendment to codify the Bush administration’s
controversial "unborn child" regulation that allows states to make
an embryo or fetus eligible for healthcare coverage.  The amendment
was an effort to further erode the legal framework for abortion rights
by recognizing an embryo as a separate beneficiary of government programs
from the moment of conception.  A pro-choice vote opposed the
amendment; Senator McCain voted for the amendment while Senators
Obama and Biden voted against the amendment.  The amendment
was rejected by a vote of 49 to 50. 

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) offered
an amendment to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) appropriations
bill that sought to strike language from that bill that would have helped
ensure that the president could not unilaterally cancel the Unites States
contribution to UNFPA.  President Bush has cancelled the appropriation
for the program, which is an important reproductive health program,
for each of the last six years.  A pro-choice vote was against
the amendment.  McCain, Obama and Biden
did not vote on the amendment, which passed by a vote of 48 to 45. 

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator
Olympia Snowe (R-ME) proposed the full repeal of the Global Gag Rule, which
denies United States assistance for any overseas health clinic that
uses its own private funds to provide or counsel individuals about abortion
care or that takes a pro-choice position.  A pro-choice vote was
against the amendment.  Senator McCain, Senator Obama and Senator
Biden did not vote on the amendment, which was rejected by a vote of
40 to 54. 

Senator Brownback proposed
an amendment to the Global Gag Rule that would strike a provision from
the bill that would allow overseas health centers that are otherwise
ineligible for USAID funding under the global gag rule to receive United
States-donated condoms and contraceptives. A pro-choice vote was against
the amendment.  Senators McCain, Obama and Biden
did not vote on the amendment, which was rejected by a vote of 40 to
54. 

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) proposed
an amendment to Federal Health Grants that would have defunded family
planning clinics nationwide by denying all federal health grants to
any health center that provides abortion care with other funds. 
A pro-choice vote was against the amendment.  Senator McCain voted
for the amendment.  Senators Obama and Biden did not vote
on the amendment which was rejected by a vote of 41 to 52. 

For the 2007 first session
of the 110th Congress, NARAL Pro-Choice America rated Senator
McCain 0% pro-choice.  They rated Senator Obama 100% and Senator
Biden 75%. 

Since the 2008 second session
of the 110th Congress has not yet closed, NARAL Pro-Choice
America has not completed a report on choice related legislation for
that session.  But we are able to review the choice-related activity
thus far and look at how McCain, Obama and Biden have voted.   

Senator Vitter offered
an amendment to "recodify" the Hyde funding ban on abortion care
at Indian Health Service clinics
as part of the Indian Health Care Improvement
Act Amendments.  A pro-choice vote was no.  Obama
did not vote; McCain did not vote; Biden voted
no.  The amendment passed by a vote of 52 to 42. 

As part of the FY’09 Budget
Resolution, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) proposed an amendment to create a
reserve fund for enforcement of the Child Custody Protection Act. 
The Child Custody Protection Act, also known as the Teen Endangerment
Act, would create a series of requirements that would restrict
young women’s ability to obtain an abortion outside their home state.
The act contains no exception for when an abortion is necessary to
protect a young woman’s health and requires a 24-hour waiting period
and written notification even if a parent accompanies the woman to an
out-of-state abortion provider.  The act also creates criminal
penalties for grandparents and other concerned adults who try to assist
the teen.  A pro-choice vote was no.  Senator Obama and Senator Biden voted
no.  Senator McCain did not vote. The amendment failed by a vote
of 49 to 49.   

Also related to the FY’09
Budget Resolution, Senator Allard (R-CO) proposed an amendment to codify
the Bush administration’s controversial "unborn child" regulation. 
A pro-choice vote was no.  Senators Obama and Biden voted
no. Senator McCain voted yes. The amendment failed by a vote of 46 to
52.   

Even though the demands of
primaries and general election campaigns kept the candidates away from
the Senate, the votes they did cast make their positions on reproductive
justice known.  Senator McCain failed to cast a single pro-choice
vote on the key choice-related legislation taken up by the 110th
Congress to date.  Senator Obama cast pro-choice votes on all choice
related legislation he was present for as did Senator Biden.  Looking at the candidates’ votes is a great resource for pro-choice voters
looking to weigh each candidate’s actions against his rhetoric
before casting their ballot in November. 

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