Republicans are supposed to be eschewing social issues and mending bridges with women voters who helped re-elect President Obama last November. But on Tuesday, some Republicans seem to have temporarily forgotten how to do that.
In two instances, Republican lawmakers made outdated comments about women while an all-male panel on a House subcommittee advanced a bill to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy -- reigniting the abortion issue that many Republicans had hoped to move away from after the elections.
First, there was Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who blamed the decline in American education on mothers joining the workforce. “Both parents started working, and the mom is in the workplace,” Bryant said at a Washington Post Live event. “I can see the emails tomorrow,” he added, predicting that response might not go over well.
Not to be outdone, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., weighed in during a marathon hearing on sexual assault in the military by noting that hormones may be to blame for the crisis-level number of assaults in the armed forces. "The young folks that are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22-23. Gee whiz -- the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur,” Chambliss said to a panel of top military brass. “[W]e got to figure this thing out because we simply can't tolerate it."
Across the capital, a House subcommittee decided to embrace one of the more radical anti-abortion movements of recent years by approving a bill to ban abortions at 20 weeks unless the life of the mother is at risk. Like similar bills that have been passed at the state level -- and struck down as unconstitutional -- the ban is based on the controversial theory that 20 weeks is the point at which a fetus can feel pain. The vote on the all-male panel fell along party lines.
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Though Americans are sharply divided over abortion, the extreme positions on abortion did not help Republicans in 2012, when failed candidates like Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana awkwardly defended their opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest.
“It means the ice age is still thawing in Republicanistan,” Republican strategist Mark McKinnon said in an email.
Tuesday’s events come a few days after an all-male panel on Fox News raised alarm bells over a report that women are the breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children -- a finding Erick Erickson, the conservative editor of RedState.com, called against nature.
“When you look at biology, look at the natural world -- the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role,” Erickson said last week.
The events also presented Democrats with an opportunity to slam their opponents. EMILY's List, the group dedicated to electing pro-choice women, began fundraising off of Chambliss, Bryant and Erickson's comments with an email to supporters on Wednesday.
Republican strategist Brian Walsh said he expects Republicans in the 2014 elections not to repeat these kinds of mistakes, even pointing out that Democrats say insensive things too. "The reality is that out-of-touch comments have been made by folks in both parties but I expect next year's election to be between a forward-looking Republican vision centered around economic growth versus the more debt, higher taxes and government overreach of the last six years," Walsh said.
The National Republican Committee, which is spearheading the party’s rebranding efforts, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.