Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 6, 2009

DEMOCRATIC 'CENTRISTS'.... Last night, as part of a series of amendments to the omnibus spending bill, Sen. Roger Wicker (R) of Mississippi hoped to strip the bill of money for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Fortunately, he failed -- the amendment only garnered 39 supporters.

But it's worth looking at the final roll call. The three remaining moderates in the Senate caucus -- Collins, Snowe, and Specter -- voted with the Democratic majority. But three Democrats -- Evan Bayh (Ind.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), and Bob Casey (Pa.) -- voted with the Republican minority.

This is crazy.

Indeed, there's no reason this should even be controversial. In Bush's first term, the former president intended to maintain UNFPA funding at Clinton-era levels. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "We recognize that UNFPA does invaluable work through its programs in maternal and child health care, voluntary family planning, screening for reproductive tract cancers, breast-feeding promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention." The administration sought the money, and Congress overwhelmingly approved it.

And then, some right-wing activists with the Bush administration's ear starting complaining bitterly. Since its inception in 1969, the Fund has won widespread recognition for its work in improving the lives of women in developing countries, but for far-right leaders, most notably in the religious right, UNFPA is a pro-abortion enterprise that supports China's one-child policy.

Bush put a hold on the money he'd already requested and received, so he could investigate UNFPA's work in China. When international investigators and a U.S. team found "no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China, Bush suppressed the findings and blocked the funding anyway. It's a twisted position he maintained for the rest of his years in office.

Because of Bush's actions on UNFPA, fewer women in developing countries received pre-natal care, fewer doctors were trained to deal with pregnancy complications, fewer HIV prevention programs could operate, and less medical equipment was made available to expectant mothers.

A few days after his inauguration, President Obama said the U.S. policy would change, and we would go back to supporting the Population Fund, just as presidents from both parties have done for a generation.

Wicker and most of the Republicans tried to keep Bush's policy in place. That's not too surprising; their callousness is routine. But three "centrist" Democrats agreed with them.

I don't know how they could be so heartless.

Steve Benen 9:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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"...how could they be so heartless"

Perhaps they were worried that Catholic voters in PA and IN, and conservatives in NE might ask the same question.

Talk radio would use UNFPA as a club.

I suppose they could have personal convictions that prevent them from supporting it, but it smells political to me.

Posted by: lobbygow on March 6, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Guys, when I click on a link, and then return to the blog, I'm not positioned to where I started, but at the top of the blog. Then I have to scroll down several pages to figure out where I was. It's annoying. This is the only blog I know that works like this. Don't you think it's about time you fixed this problem? It's amateurish.

Posted by: Phil P on March 6, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Evan Bayh was an ass, is an ass, and will always be an ass.

Somewhere, deep in the recesses of his black heart, there must be some corporate interests that want to stop this funding. Eli Lilly must be able to make more money if this funding is not approved.

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 6, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

So WTF Phil? You can't be bothered to send a polite email about your issue?


Posted by: staplefood on March 6, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

it's called


the oldest prejudice in the world

Posted by: neill on March 6, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Why don't we trade Bayh and Nelson (or better, Landrieu) for Collins, Specter, and Snowe?

['Reshuffle, reshuffle, reshuffle.']

Posted by: max on March 6, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

All three Dems are from socially conservative states. They knew the amendment would fail, so it gained points at home while costing nothing. That's politics. But don't think they wouldn't do the same thing if it was even closer. Guys like these are put here to make us appreciate the few who have principle.

Posted by: ericfree on March 6, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

. . . three Democrats -- Evan Bayh (Ind.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), and Bob Casey (Pa.) -- voted with the Republican minority.

"We recognize that UNFPA does invaluable work through its programs in maternal and child health care, voluntary family planning, screening for reproductive tract cancers, breast-feeding promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention." - Colin Powell

This sounds like something that Hillary's PUMAs could grab onto and run with.

And for Phil P: the site runs just fine on my Mac. Are you sure your bookmark is for the main page and not the archive?

Posted by: SteveT on March 6, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

And maybe they thought they were actually reflecting the wishes of a majority of their constituents. You, democracy and all that.

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on March 6, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, anyone remember "W stands for women"?

Posted by: Basilisc on March 6, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

I wish WM had a journalistic wing that could make some phone calls to get on-the-record comments from these Democrats. What is their justification? Do they have "facts" at hand that we don't? If so, let's hear them.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on March 6, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

SteveT, Phil P. is not talking about his bookmarks, but his back button. I'm on a PC at work, and it does the same thing as his. I'm sure my home Mac works better.

Posted by: in vino veritas on March 6, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Casey is rather famously pro-life, so I'm not too surprised. No excuse for the other two.

Posted by: John on March 6, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Casey wants more women and babies in developing countries to die from lack of medical care and that's called "pro-life"?

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on March 6, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Why did those three vote as they did? Casey probably because he's Catholic and anti-choice and believes the baloney as a result. Nelson and Bayh get to whine "but it costs soooooooo much! We hve to cut somewhere.....!!"

Why don't Casey and Spector switch parties? they'd both be happier and things like this would make more sense.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 6, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should just calling these guys "FOX Democrats...."

Posted by: Steve W. on March 6, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Centrist Democrats are dicks.

Posted by: David Bailey on March 6, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

HEARTLESS A great name for the narrow minded, narrow foscused, narrow kindness of the right wing of the Republican party.The neo Cons do not like women,women in America or Women of the world unless the women will submit to their base desires and agree to be exploited.

Posted by: mljohnston on March 6, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Ben Nelson is a 100% pro-life politician.

In this state, it's virtually impossible to get elected to *any* office if you're not pro-life.

Posted by: paul from omaha on March 6, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Has Bayh more or less given up on running for president?

You think Hil won't bring THIS up in 2016?
(Or at least give her second thoughts of putting him in the #2 slot.)

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 6, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Missing from the description of the work of UNFPA is their promotion of family-planing education and contraception. In a world already suffering from over-population, family planing and contraception provision is of paramount and urgent importance.

Why are we squeamish about referencing this critical work of the Population Agency?

Posted by: Goldilocks on March 6, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

It is TIME for progressives to target the DINOs!!!

Posted by: billie on March 6, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

And speaking of cruelty and brutality...

Here's the latest in from Colorado. The topic under discussion at the State Legislature was a bill requiring pregnant women to be tested for HIV. Sen. David Schultheis, a Republican from Colorado Springs ("The Evangelical Vatican"), voted against the bill because, he said, it would wrongly protect women and their unborn children from the consequences of "sexual promiscuity."

"We do things constantly to try to remove the negative consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly," he said.

If HIV is caught early enough its spread from mother to baby can be prevented. But the senator is less interested in saving unborn babies from misery and possible early death than he is in punishing women.

This is someone who brags non-stop about his "pro-life" credentials. Apparently the unborn babies conceived by HIV-positive women are the wrong kind of babies and don't count.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on March 6, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK



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