Democratic presidential candidates skipped a vote on a bill that would have guaranteed medical care for newborns, a vote that Republicans and pro-life activists say will come back to haunt the candidates in November.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) were not present for the vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would mandate that doctors provide potentially life-saving care to babies who survive abortion. All three 2020 hopefuls voted to block the same bill when it was first proposed in 2019. Bill sponsor Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) ripped the Democratic presidential candidates for dodging the vote.
"Three presidential candidates missed yesterday’s vote while they were kissing babies out on the campaign trail," he told the Washington Free Beacon. "Someone should ask them if they’re okay with leaving babies to die."
None of the campaigns returned requests for comment about the legislation.
Senate Democrats successfully blocked the bill even without the presence of Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren, who were in South Carolina for a Tuesday night debate. While the legislation failed to cross the 60-vote threshold, the Born-Alive Act garnered increased support from pro-choice Republican senators and moderate Democrats. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), who voted against the same legislation in 2019, and Susan Collins (R., Maine) were among the 56 senators who voted to pass the bill. Democrats Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Doug Jones (D., Ala.), and Bob Casey (D., Pa.) crossed the aisle to support the legislation.
"We expanded our bipartisan majority this year and we’re not backing down," Sasse said. "Senators can look the other way, but they can’t escape the facts. These babies need just four more senators to step up and do the humane thing."
Floor debate over the legislation was punctuated by a contentious exchange between Sasse and Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), as Sasse ripped Democratic leaders for trying to "defend the indefensible." Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said lawmakers had a "duty" to protect vulnerable Americans.
"The abortion industry will dismiss these lives as a mere rounding error," Cotton said on the Senate floor. "Most Americans see the matter differently. These are precious little children, made in the image of God and endowed by Him with the same worth and dignity as you and me and all of us. We have a duty to these little children. We have a duty not to look away from them."
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said Democrats had adopted an "extremist view" that is out of step with both medical ethics and voters.
"It is deeply disappointing that some elected officials in the Senate have promised to block even legislation that mandates medical care for children who survive an abortion—an extremist view shared by all Democratic presidential candidates," she said in a statement.
Congressional Republicans have made the Born-Alive Act a top priority since 2019 when Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam discussed doctors allowing babies who survive abortions to die, rather than providing care. Similar measures have run up against Democratic opposition and vetoes in Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Colorado. House Democrats have prevented a floor vote on the Born-Alive Act. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) called the Democratic Party's position on life "frightening."
"This debate is not just about abortion, it’s about ensuring that every human has access to ethical medical standards," McCarthy said.
Warren, Klobuchar, and Sanders all voted against the Born-Alive legislation in 2019, despite polls that showed nearly 80 percent of Americans, including a majority of self-described pro-choice voters, supported newborn care. The trio also skipped a vote on the Pain-Capable Act, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, on Tuesday evening. The bill received 53 votes of support, with Collins and Murkowski both opposing the legislation, while Manchin and Casey supported it.
President Trump has repeatedly attacked his challengers as the "party of late-term abortion" on the campaign trail. Pro-life activists have pledged to make abortion a defining issue in the run-up to the 2020 election. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said the failure of Senate Democrats to pass the bills will come back to haunt Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar if they receive the party nomination.
"President Trump stands ready to sign both these popular, life-saving bills into law—it is only the abortion extremism of the Democratic Party that stands in the way," she said in a statement. "Should Democrats continue their extremism, we will work tirelessly to ensure they are punished at the ballot box this November."