Fear of a non-binding resolution

The anniversary of Roe v. Wade is an opportunity for a bit of political theatrics. Congressional Republicans famously muffed their attempt this year, with an anti-abortion bill so extreme that quite a few female congresscritters objected, leading to the bill’s abandonment.

In Vermont, folks on the other side of the abortion issue brought forward a resolution recognizing the anniversary. This happens every year; but this time, supporters asked for a roll call vote.

Which caused a moment of panic, captured by Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck:

Last seen heading for the cloakroom.

Last seen heading for the cloakroom.

The House roll-call vote clearly made some Republicans uncomfortable. In a pre-vote caucus, Rep. Bob Bancroft (R-Westford) asked how members could abstain. Only by not being in the room for the vote, House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton) told him. When Bancroft’s name was called during the vote, he was absent.

Sudden attack of the runs, Bob?

Kudos to Hallenbeck for putting this moment of cowardice on the record. But it made me curious: why was Bancroft especially touchy about this?

Simple answer. He represents Chittenden 8-3, a district represented until this year by Democrat Martha Heath. In 2012 the Republicans didn’t even bother contesting the seat. When Heath announced her retirement, the district was in play. The Democrat, Liz Subin, was expected to win a fairly close race; but Bancroft was swept in on the Republican wave.

It’s likely to be different in 2016, with a Presidential election and Pat Leahy’s Senate seat on the ballot. Democratic turnout will be much higher, and Bancroft may face an uphill battle to win a second term. It’d be very inconvenient for him to be on the record opposing the Roe resolution; but if he supported it, the anti-abortion base would be outraged.

Faced with this dilemma, he chose expediency over exposure.

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