Drafters of the Republican Party’s 2012 platform moved toward adopting a statement of principles that reaffirms a call for a constitutional ban on abortion without exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Abortion, an issue spotlighted this week by comments on rape by a Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, received scant attention during two days of deliberation by the platform panel in Tampa. The document will be submitted for formal adoption by the Republican National Convention that starts Aug. 27 in this Florida city.
Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, noting that past Republican hearings included “hours of discussion” about abortion, commended “the committee’s work in affirming our respect for human life. Well done.”
With no floor debate, the panel adopted language contained in the 2004 and 2008 Republican platforms that said an “unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life that cannot be infringed.”
Asked yesterday about exceptions to the abortion ban, McDonnell said “that’s not the level of granularity you are going to see in this platform” because “those are issues generally addressed on a state-by-state basis.”
The issue gained new political urgency after Todd Akin, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, said in an Aug. 19 television interview that one reason abortion shouldn’t be allowed in rape cases is that pregnancy was unlikely to result. Akin, a U.S. House member, has since apologized, saying “I used the wrong words in the wrong way.” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other party leaders are calling for him to withdraw from the Senate race.
The drafters did add several new abortion provisions, including one that would ban government subsidies for employer- sponsored health insurance that offers abortion services.
The panel, formally known as the Committee on Resolutions, is scheduled to vote later today on sending the platform to the full convention.
In its debates, the panel focused on measures to reduce the size, scope and cost of the federal government and to promote tax simplification. The proposed platform advocates a balanced budget constitutional amendment and a requirement that Congress could only raise taxes with super majorities of the House and Senate, except in times of war or national emergency.
More delegates “are really concerned about our budgets and about spending” and entitlement programs such as Medicare, with little “desire to weigh in deeply on these social issues when you’ve got literally the $16 trillion debt hanging over” the country, said Russ Walker, an Oregon delegate affiliated with the anti-tax Tea Party movement.
“There’s the old saying, which is a girl is less likely to have an abortion if she feels like she can raise a child,” Walker said in an interview.
Other planks would require an annual audit of the Federal Reserve and call for creation of a commission to “consider the feasibility” of returning the U.S. dollar to the gold standard “to set a fixed value” for the currency. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, reiterated his backing for an audit of the Fed as the platform panel began its deliberations yesterday.
The platform endorsed revamping Medicare, a proposal promoted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman Romney has tapped to be his vice presidential running mate.
“While retaining the option of Medicare in competition with private plans” the platform called for “transition to a premium-support model for Medicare,” which would give recipients an income-adjusted subsidy to buy insurance.
Medicare should “change from an unsustainable defined- benefit entitlement model” to the “defined contribution model.” the platform draft said. And a “more realistic” eligibility age than the current standard of 65 should be set to reflect “today’s longer life span,” the document said.
The drafters gave Romney flexibility on overhauling the tax code, in part by dropping the 2008 platform’s advocacy of preserving the mortgage-interest income-tax deduction. Former Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, a Romney adviser, said such a stance would muddy the party’s call for tax simplification, which Romney is promoting. This year’s document does call for retaining the mortgage-interest deduction if Congress fails to revamp the tax code.
To overhaul the tax code, Romney has proposed lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent and reducing individual income-tax rates by 20 percent. He has said that eliminating tax breaks for the highest-income Americans would help pay for the lower rates. The former Massachusetts governor hasn’t specified which tax breaks he would eliminate.
To keep his proposed tax-rate cuts revenue neutral, Romney would have to eliminate $320 billion worth of tax breaks, about 30 percent of the total, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said in a study released in Washington last month.
The nonpartisan, Washington-based Congressional Budget Office said that the mortgage-income tax deduction cost $80 billion in 2009.
The Romney campaign today also persuaded delegates to reject proposals to remove references to a Palestinian state from the party’s plank on the Middle East.
The plank says Republicans “envision two democratic states -- Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine -- living in peace and security.”
Altering that wording would amount to “removing the language that states the policy” that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has committed himself to over and over again,” said Talent.
At his urging, the panel rejected a call for court review of the detention of any U.S. citizen held as an enemy combatant. It’s legitimate for the “government to detain” American citizens “when they take up arms” against the U.S., Talent said.
The proposed draft would also put Republicans on record as opposing any limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines or clips in semiautomatic weapons, including one used last month by a gunman an Aurora, Colorado, who killed 12 people at a movie theater.
The platform’s push for an annual audit of the Fed, which regulates banks and sets interest rates, was a departure from past Republican policy.
The Fed’s “monetary policy actions affect both inflation and economic activity,” so “those actions should be transparent,” the platform draft said. The Fed’s “important role as a lender of last resort should also be carried out in a more transparent manner.”
Romney said yesterday that “the Federal Reserve should be accountable” so he “would like to see the Fed audited” in a way that preserves its independence. He hasn’t endorsed legislation the House passed last month to have the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, audit the Fed, including its monetary policy deliberations.
McDonnell told reporters the passage is drafted to ensure that the annual audit would be conducted “with the appropriate flexibility that it does not impair the independence of the Federal Reserve.” McDonnell said that “many of us believe” that, when “there is more sunshine and more accountability, it is a good idea.”
The platform doesn’t advocate reviving the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward homosexuals in the military abandoned after almost two decades by President Barack Obama, said Abbott James, an Oakton, Virginia, gay Republican who attended the session. The 2008 platform referred to “the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.”
The platform committee today rejected a motion to recognize civil unions for gay couples.
The Democratic Party’s 2012 proposed platform was amended on Aug. 11 to include a plank supporting same-sex marriage.
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