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Republican candidate tests new abortion strategy in Nevada House race

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LAS VEGAS — April Becker doesn’t want to talk about abortion.

As Democrats plan to hold a referendum in November on Republicans’ efforts to curtail abortion rights, the GOP candidate that Democratic Rep. In a competitive Nevada House district, Susie Lee challenges a highly unusual strategy: the argument that Congress doesn’t have the power to regulate abortion.

Becker’s campaign website describes her as “pro-life, with exceptions for rape, incest and maternal life.” But she told NBC News she would “definitely not vote” for a federal abortion ban because she believes “that would be unconstitutional.”

In an interview Saturday at the Spanish Trail Private Country Club near the strip, Becker said she interprets the Supreme Court ruling quashing Roe v. Wade to mean that it “should be left to the states to decide.” regulate”. She said she’s also not interested in more modest nationwide restrictions like a 15 or 20-week ban, arguing that “if a federal law were passed anyway, it would be unconstitutional.”

Becker’s opinion is extremely rare and has led to condemnation from both sides of the abortion debate, an indication of the tightrope she is walking. Legal experts say the landmark Dobbs decision returns the question to lawmakers in the states and Congress. Some, such as Nevada GOP nominee Adam Laxalt, have said they prefer to address the issue at the state level without ruling out the legality of federal restrictions. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., issued a 15-week national ban, though it was panned by Republican strategists who said it raises an issue that will benefit Democrats in the 2022 election.

When asked about Becker’s argument that Congress doesn’t have the power to regulate abortion, Lee chuckled.

“Maybe she should go back to law school,” the Democratic congresswoman said in an interview. ‘I’ve never heard of that. I don’t know if she’s in another reality.”

Rep.  Susie Lee, D-Nev., speaking at the Capitol on June 15, 2022.
Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., speaking at the Capitol on June 15.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

Becker’s view also drew resistance from anti-abortion rights activists who pushed for federal limits on terminating a pregnancy. After decades of trench warfare culminating in the landmark decision to end Roe v. Wade, they say they expect Republicans to perform.

“We firmly believe there is a role for the federal government here and are advocating for it with Republican lawmakers and candidates,” said Mallory Carroll, a spokesperson for SBA Pro-Life America. “We expect anyone who calls themselves pro-life to advocate at the federal level for protection of the unborn.”

Carroll said her group wants a GOP-led congress to be “as ambitious as possible in protecting the lives of unborn children,” citing the 14th Amendment and the Trade Clause as the basis for federal restrictions.

With the fallout from the abortion ruling making Democrats more optimistic about retaining a House majority, three Democrat-controlled districts centered around the bright lights and glamorous casinos of the world-famous Las Vegas strip could prove decisive. . They’re all rated “toss up” by the unbiased Cook Political Report. Lee’s race is seen as the most competitive by analysts and national agents in both parties, but Democratic Reps Steven Horsford and Dina Titus are also running for reelection. And in the Nevada Senate race, which is one of the most contentious in the country, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., also emphasizes abortion.

“I don’t think politicians in Washington DC should be able to mandate a government pregnancy. I’m concerned about what a Republican-controlled Congress would do about a federal ban that my opponent supports,” Horsford said in an interview on an event in Northern Las Vegas. “We’re a bit libertarian here in Nevada. We don’t like the government telling us what to do with our bodies.’

His Republican rival, Sam Peters, has taken a more communal approach in his party, advocating a series of federal restrictions on legal abortion, including a 20-week ban. “As a congressman, I will fight to protect life, not devalue it,” he said. website.

Rep.  Steven Horsford, D-Nev., attends a House hearing on June 8, 2022.
Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., attends a House hearing on June 8.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via AP file

National Democrats are hammering Becker on TV as “determinedly anti-choice,” pointing to endorsements she’s received from anti-abortion groups like the National Right to Life Committee, accusing her of aligning herself with their stance on banning abortion.

“They’re lying,” a frustrated Becker said. “The ads being used against me are lies.”

When asked about Becker’s opposition to a national abortion ban, Lee, a two-term congressman first elected in 2018, answered by asking why her opponent is “willing to accept the endorsement of extreme groups promoting abortion across the globe.” country to ban.”

Lee added that the Supreme Court ruling has made the political climate “significantly different from three months ago”.

“People are energized because since the fall of Roe v Wade there has been an assault on women’s rights and women’s rights to choose across this country,” she said.

Recent contests suggest inciting Democrats to run in the 2022 midterm elections and punish the GOP for assembling the court majority that ended Roe v. Wade.

In addition to abortion, Becker downplays her party identity and strikes a friendly tone about finding common ground—an unusual approach for Republicans, even in many swing districts. Becker said she wants to “focus more on what we have in common and agree on,” without elaborating on areas of policy compromise.

“I wish people wouldn’t immediately generalize a person based on the party they’re affiliated with,” she says said. “I always say, we’re not the Crips and the Bloods – red and blue. It’s not like that. We all want the same things, I guess. We just have different plans to achieve that goal.”

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