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Shift in Control of Senate Expected to Favor Languishing Pro-Life Legislation

Mitch McConnell at campaign event


Mark Stricherz - published on 11/05/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Republicans gain control of Senate and boost membership in House

Republican candidates gained the six seats necessary to recapture control of the United States Senate Tuesday, raising pro-lifers’ hopes of passing legislation but dealing a blow to supporters of immigration reform.

GOP candidates won easily in three states where the Democratic incumbent retired and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012 (West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota); knocked off two Democratic incumbents in Republican-leaning Southern states (Arkansas and North Carolina); and proclaimed victorty in two states that President Obama won in 2008 and 2012 (Iowa and Colorado). 

A transfer of power from Democratic to Republican hands will embolden pro-life advocates. Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List, said Republican control of the Senate would change the body’s legislative priorities. She cited a proposed ban on nearly all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.  The Republican-controlled House approved the bill last year but the legislation has languished in the Senate.

“This is great news for all pro-life Americans hoping to advance the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” Quigley said Tuesday night, when the race results were beginning to look favorable for the Republicans. "Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote if his party takes the majority tonight."

McConnell, who beat a Democratic challenger in Kentucky, is poised to become Senate Majority Leader. 

Before the election results Tuesday, pro-life Republicans felt good about their chances of adding to their numbers on Capitol Hill.

In the House, pro-life Republicans hailed Elise Stefanik’s likely victory in a district in upstate New York. 

At 30 years old, Stefanik would be the youngest woman elected to Congress. The Harvard graduate is a former staffer in Congress and aide to Paul Ryan’s vice-presidential campaign in 2012. “Her energy, experience, and passion for promoting the dignity of each human life will make Elise an excellent addition to the House Pro-life Women’s Caucus,” Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. A Stefanik spokesperson did not return multiple calls for comment.

Dannenfelser’s organization supports pro-life candidates in both parties, but the results from Tuesday night are expected to thin the ranks of pro-life Democrats in Congress.  

Election experts predict Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia will struggle to earn another term in office. The Rothenberg Political Report rates Rahall’s race as a “pure tossup,” while University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said Rahall’s Republican challenger, state senator Evan Jenkins, has a slight edge.  

Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina is retiring at the end of the 113th Congress in January. A Republican, former state senator David Rouzer, is expected to win the seat easily. If Jenkins and Rouzer win their races Tuesday, the number of pro-life Democrats in the House would diminish. Democrats for Life of America listed Rahall, McIntyre, Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota as pro-life Democrats. An organization spokeswoman did not return a voicemail for comment by press time.

Like pro-life Democrats, supporters of immigration reform are expected to dwindle in number after Tuesday

In June 2013, 54 Democrats and 14 Republicans in the Senate voted for the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops threw its weight behind the legislation, especially the most controversial part of the bill which allowed some illegal immigrants to become citizens after passing a background check, paying a fine, and establishing eligibility. “Such a program would help stabilize the workforce, promote family unity, and bring a large population ‘out of the shadows,’ as members of their communities,” the bishops wrote in a statement in support of the legislation.

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