WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Friday that his chamber will vote on legislation banning most late-term abortions, setting the stage for a showdown over a top conservative priority that his party will likely lose.
"It's about time we begin the process of putting America into the ranks of most other civilized countries by protecting unborn children after 20 weeks in the womb," the Kentucky Republican told a conference of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.
McConnell was interrupted by applause as he reminded the crowd that the measure "couldn't even get a hearing" when Democrats controlled the Senate.
"I promise you will be getting a vote," he said, though he did not specify when.
Underscoring how the issue galvanizes both sides, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee almost immediately solicited contributions from supporters, writing in an email, "When anti-women attacks are what passes for leadership, it's time for a change."
Though the GOP-run House approved similar legislation last month, it faces an uphill climb in the Senate. Republicans control that chamber with 54 seats but will need 60 votes to defeat a Democratic filibuster.
Most Democrats are sure to oppose the bill by presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and some moderate Republicans could too. Among the handful of GOP senators not listed as co-sponsors Friday were Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois, who face potentially competitive re-election races next year.
Should it reach his desk, a veto by President Barack Obama would be all but certain.
"I hope Republicans will reverse course and focus on real challenges rather than using women's health to score political points, but if they don't, they should know that this dangerous legislation is nothing but a dead end," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., top Democrat on the Senate Health committee.
The bill makes exceptions to save the mother's life or if she was a rape victim who receives counseling or medical treatment at least 48 hours before the procedure. Also exempted would be minors who were victims of rape or incest and reported the incident to law enforcement or social service officials.