In what is undoubtedly a breath-taking move of political gamesmanship and yet another pointless shot fired in the GOP-led Culture Wars, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) moved this week to hold a noncontroversial flood insurance bill hostage until the Senate agrees with his belief that life begins at fertilization.
The bill, which financially boosts the National Flood Insurance Program on the cusp of hurricane season, had been expected to pass easily in the Senate. But after Paul insisted on adding an unrelated “fetal personhood” amendment, which would give legal protections to fetuses from the moment of fertilization, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has threatened to halt progress on the legislation.
“I’m told last night that one of our Republican senators wants to offer an amendment — listen to this one — wants to offer an amendment on when life begins,” an exasperated Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I am not going to put up with that on flood insurance. I can be condemned by outside sources; my friends can say, ‘Let them have a vote on it.’ There will not be a vote on that on flood insurance. We’ll either do flood insurance with the amendments that deal with flood insurance, or we won’t do it. We’ll have an extension.”
Showing considerably less compassion for potential victims of flooding with hurricane season approaching, Paul told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he is “just trying to get a vote for people who elected me.”
How a flood insurance bill relates to the legal status of unborn fetuses he was unable or unwilling to say.
“Can you believe that they’re exasperated with me?” he said, responding to criticism of his attempt to attach the unrelated amendment. “If [Harry Reid will] give me a freestanding vote, I’ll take a freestanding vote any time.”
The highly controversial concept of fetal personhood raised by Paul’s amendment could affect the legality of abortion, some forms of birth control, stem cell research and in vitro fertilization.
EMILY’s List, an advocacy group dedicated to electing Democratic women to Congress, were quick to denounce Paul and his Republican colleagues.
“Seems like Republicans in Congress can’t make it a week without trying to take away women’s rights,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock to The Huffington Post. “But holding up flood insurance at the start of hurricane season, with at least two major American cities already suffering, is a brand-new low.”