By Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. congressional Democrats are trying to force votes on abortion and gun control bills, which have slim chances of success this year, but could resonate with voters in districts represented by moderate Republicans they hope to oust in the 2024 elections.
With only a 51-49 Democratic majority in the Senate and 222-212 Republican control of the House of Representatives, Democrats want to use the bills tightening gun control sales and protecting abortion access to either force those Republican moderates in competitive districts to go along or to take votes that might unsettle their constituents.
“You can’t go back to your district and say you were a moderate, reasonable Republican and then come down to Washington and be the exact opposite,” Democratic Representative Jim McGovern said. “So we’re calling them out.”
Control of both chambers will be in play in 2024, when Democratic President Joe Biden will be up for reelection, and Democrats aim to recapture congressional districts where Biden performed well in 2020 in states including New York and California.
House Democrats later this summer are trying to force votes on two bills strengthening gun-buyer background checks and a third banning assault-style rifles that have become a weapon of choice in mass shootings.
The bills on hot-button issues are unlikely to secure enough Republican support to succeed but Senator Chris Murphy said he believes there could be some support from Republicans “at least on the issue of universal background checks.”
One year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down its half-century-old Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a national right to abortion, Senate Democrats plan to try again to force votes that would codify the right to contraception, prevent anti-abortion states from hindering their residents from getting legal abortions elsewhere and prohibit “data brokers” from selling information on women seeking abortions.
Even if efforts fall short now, said Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, “there’s value to having a recorded vote.”
There appear to be enough Senate Republicans from solidly-conservative states to block Democrats’ efforts on abortion legislation.
“I’m incredibly proud that this victory for the pro-life movement reversing the moral stain of Roe v Wade came out of my state of Mississippi,” said Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Polling points to support for Democrats on abortion and guns. A Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted April 11-12 found 56% of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a politician who supports legislation limiting access to abortion, while 28% would be more likely to.
On guns, a Reuters/Ipsos poll last year found that 84% of Americans support extending background checks for all firearms purchases, a policy Republicans have long opposed.
As for the likelihood Democrats will be able to lure enough Republican support for any new gun measures this year, Republican Senator John Cornyn said, “I don’t believe we’re going to be seeing any legislation” succeed.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)
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