Nancy Mace and the myth of the moderate Republican

One of the supposed "moderates" in the House Republican caucus railed on Thursday against several right-wing amendments to the military budget bill. First, she did so privately.

“We should not be taking this fucking vote, man. Fuck,” Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina fumed, venting to her staff about an extremist measure overturning Pentagon policies to facilitate abortion access for service members. “It's an asshole move, an asshole amendment,” she added, according to Politico.

But once on the House floor, the 'moderate' Mace voted to pass the very amendment she had  privately blasted. The anti-abortion measure is now attached to the National Defense Authorization Act House Republicans approved Friday, 219-210, with the help of four Democrats.

Since the Democratically controlled Senate will never agree to the GOP's radical provisions, House Republicans' poison pill amendments risk delaying the must-pass funding bill, which includes raises for service members, among other critical needs. In other words, House Republicans are threatening national security and military readiness in order to advance their wildly unpopular culture warring.

Yet after voting in favor of the forced birther measure, Mace got on her public soap box, telling reporters, “We got to stop being assholes to women, stop targeting women and do the things that make a real difference.”

If she felt so strongly about it, reporters wondered, why had she voted for the amendment?

Mace offered the rather thin reasoning that, because the military doesn't reimburse travel expenses for service members getting elective procedures, it shouldn't reimburse troops traveling to get abortion services. She was, in her telling, trying to be "consistent."

Mace justified her decision to vote for the amendment by insisting it is not “military policy” to reimburse for travel expenses for an elective procedure and she is just trying to be “consistent.”

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 14, 2023

Kudos to Mace for the spectacular mental gymnastics. To her credit, she is consistent. But Mace isn't alone as a so-called "moderate" who continues to vote for measures advanced by the most radical members of her caucus.

In fact, all but three of 18 Republicans who currently represent districts Joe Biden won in 2020 voted along with Mace to deprive service members of both time off and reimbursement if they have to cross state lines to access standard reproductive care. The three Republicans who balked were:

  • Rep. Brandon Williams (New York’s 22nd) abstained from voting.

  • Rep. John Duarte (California’s 13th) voted against the anti-abortion measure.

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania’s 1st) voted against the measure.

For reference, here's a chart of the Republican Biden 18, compiled by Daily Kos Elections.

Per @DKElections' calculations, these are the 18 House Republicans who sit in districts that Joe Biden would have carried (Why "would have"? Because of redistricting. We've recalculated the 2020 presidential results for the new districts that have since been adopted)

— Daily Kos Elections (@DKElections) July 14, 2023

It's worth remembering those 18 because, like Mace, they are often referred to as moderates yet they vote completely in sync with the Republican extremists now running the House. There is little, if any, daylight between them and the far-right extremists in the party when it comes to their votes.

Certainly, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York wanted the public to remember the five GOP members of the New York delegation who failed to vote in favor of preserving service member access to reproductive care. At a Friday press conference regarding the NDAA and the GOP’s poison pill amendments, Jeffries had a helpful visual display of each Republican, in keeping with a specific New York Democratic strategy to unseat every one of them next year.

Jeffries presser prop has an eye towards 2024, singling out NY Rs in Biden-won districts who voted for NDAA amendment on abortion

— Nicholas Wu (@nicholaswu12) July 14, 2023

But again, poisoning the NDAA with an anti-abortion measure (along with anti-transgender and anti-diversity provisions) certainly isn't an isolated incident for endangered Republicans in moderate districts.

Last month, all but one of the 18 Biden-district Republicans voted to refer a completely baseless resolution to impeach President Biden to a pair of committees for further investigation. The only Republican in the Biden 18 club who didn't support referring the resolution was Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19), who skipped the vote altogether.

Any of those so-called moderates could have voted against referring the resolution, sponsored by extremist Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado. Voting against referral would have been a vote to kill Boebert's harebrained antics, but none of them did.

The fact of the matter is that GOP extremists are now running the House Republican caucus, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hopelessly trying to mitigate the damage. Because McCarthy owes his gavel to the extremists, he can't risk shutting down any of their maneuvers, no matter how radical, ridiculous, or ruinous they are to the Republican majority.

It follows that the Republican "moderates" exist simply to cast votes in support of the extremists' agenda and complain to reporters while doing it—a role the traditional media clearly relishes. But voters in those moderate districts should take note, because the Republican Party gets more extreme every cycle. There's no room for Republican moderation anymore, except in name only.