News Articles

ELECTION 06: Fate of social issues likely hangs in the balance

WASHINGTON (BP)–The fate of numerous policies to be determined in Congress might hang in the balance as Election Day nears, social conservatives and liberals alike say.

The battle for control of the Senate between Democrats and Republicans still appears too close to call even this close to Nov. 7. In the House of Representatives, some forecasters have predicted a 30-seat gain for the Democratic Party, but a new averaging of major public opinion polls shows the Democrats barely gaining a majority.

Republicans are in the majority in both houses now.

Even a slight majority can make a difference on issues important to both sides of the cultural divide.

“Elections have consequences, and people have different visions for where America should go,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “That’s why we have election contests. When people go to the polls on Nov. 7, they’ll be making some very basic decisions about how they want to be governed.

“It goes without saying that there would be vastly different approaches to issues like abortion, parental rights and the Marriage Protection Amendment,” which would protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman, Land told Baptist Press.

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said in an Oct. 24 commentary, “This election will most certainly decide if we will spend the next couple of years with a Congress that defends marriage and life or one that attacks it.”

Democratic control of either house, or both, will transform the dynamic on a variety of moral issues, both sides predict.

Americans should expect no more confirmations of strict-constructionist nominees to the Supreme Court in the next two years of the Bush administration in a Democratic-controlled Senate led by liberals, according to Concerned Women for America. A chamber controlled by liberals would provide no hope for bills to protect the rights of parents of pregnant minors, to inform women of the pain their unborn baby can suffer during an abortion and to ban all human cloning, CWA says.

Homosexual activist organizations would have new hope for advances. Activists and Democratic leaders are making plans for advancing homosexual issues if the House switches hands, according to The Washington Blade, a Washington, D.C., newspaper catering to homosexuals.

Among their priorities would be passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people, in both the public and private workplace and would elevate “sexual orientation” to the level of race. They also would seek passage of a hate crimes measure that includes homosexuals and the transgendered in categories to be covered. In addition, they would work for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuals in the military.

John Marble, spokesman for the National Stonewall Democrats, a leading homosexual activist organization, said Democratic control of the House is crucial.

“Traditionally, the House has been more difficult to pass pro-LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] legislation in because of its structure,” Marble told The Blade. “If we’re able to pass something in the House, we’re much more likely to be able to pass it in the Senate, regardless of which party is in control.

“The bottom line is electing a Republican majority kills the progression of inclusive legislation,” Marble said of advancing homosexual issues, adding this about the pro-homosexuality Log Cabin Republicans, “The goal of maintaining a Republican majority conflicts with the interest of gay and lesbian families.”

Democrats need to gain 15 seats for control of the House. They would narrowly manage that feat based on an Oct. 27 report by the web site RealClearPolitics.com. RCP averaged recent surveys by nine different pollsters and found the Democrats would gain 15.9 seats.

In the Senate, the Democrats must gain six seats to win a majority. If polls are correct, it appears likely they will win Republican-held seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Toss-up races in Republican-held seats in Missouri, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia and a Democratic-held seat in New Jersey likely will determine which party is in power.

Abortion and other life issues appear to have become particularly important in Missouri and Tennessee.

Republican Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri is pro-life on the abortion issue and opposes a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would protect destructive embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, an initiative his Democratic opponent, Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill, favors.

In Tennessee, Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr.’s position on abortion has become an issue in his bid to replace Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Ford told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in July he considers himself “pro-life.” On his website, Ford says he “will continue to work to eliminate abortions” in the United States, but he says he will do so “without criminalizing what is undoubtedly one of the most tormenting and difficult decisions a woman will ever have to make.”

The National Right to Life Committee responded to Ford’s assertion that he is pro-life by arguing that his nine-year record in the House does not support that contention. Ford has voted against pro-life positions supported by NRLC on 58 of 67 occasions, or 87 percent of the time, NRLC reported.

Ford’s Republican opponent is former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, who is endorsed by National Right to Life.

If control of the House changes hands, even by a slight majority, the ascension of Democrats to the committee chairs will make a huge difference, FRC’s Perkins said.

“When it comes to life, marriage, judges and religious liberty … the committee chair usually decides the direction of the issue,” Perkins said. Likely Democratic chairmen would be much less prone than GOP chairmen to support pro-family and pro-life measures based on their voting records, Perkins said.

The ERLC’s Land pointed to the issue of taxes to demonstrate what kind of difference the election could make for families.

“Charlie Rangel of New York will become chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, if Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives,” Land said. “All tax and budget bills originate in that committee.

“As recently as two weeks ago in an interview with Bloomberg News, Charlie Rangel was asked if there were any of the Bush tax cuts he would keep. And he said he couldn’t think of one. That would include the child dependent tax credit, the reduction in the marriage penalty, and the new lowest 10 percent tax rate for lower income families.

“The U.S. Treasury estimates that if all of the Bush tax cuts were repealed, as Mr. Rangel indicates he would do, it would cost the average family of four with a median household income of around $40,000 a year $2,000 extra in federal taxes,” Land said. “That would mean transferring $2,000 from that family’s household budget to the federal government’s budget. I’m convinced many Americans would join me in saying that’s a family value.”