Abortion Politics: Are the override votes there?

Legislation was introduced today that would ban state funding for abortions in Minnesota. The initiative has been a major issue for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a group opposed to legalized abortion. The group’s executive director, Scott Fischbach, told MPR News on Saturday that they have renewed confidence that some of their major legislation will pass this year because Republicans now control the House and Senate. And it appears MCCL is hoping to send the legislation to Gov. Dayton’s desk.

“It will be up to the governor. Is the governor going to be so hard-core, committed to abortion that he’s not going to allow the bill banning taxpayer funding for abortion into law? Is he going to veto that and of course we’ll have to go into an override situation if that’s what it comes to.”

The discussion of a potential override caught my eye/ear since abortion politics does not split down party lines. There are large number of Democrats who oppose legalized abortion in the state. And that made me wonder whether MCCL thinks it can override a potential veto. It should be noted that GOP leadership in the House and Senate have suggested an override on this issue but Fischbach’s statement carries a lot of weight at the State Capitol.

Going by past voting history, it doesn’t look the like votes are there. But it’s close. (Note: I relied on NARAL’s 2010 scorecard for my information)

90 votes are needed to override a veto in the Minnesota House. 45 votes are need to override in the Minnesota Senate.

47 DFLers who are still there voted against the amendment in the past. Those numbers don’t include 5B (Sertich’s old seat which is open), 60A (Kelliher’s old seat which is held by DFL Rep. Marion Greene) and 65A (Thao’s old seat which is held by Rena Moran). If that group holds together and every Republican votes for the override, the total would be 88. Again, that also includes the members of 5B, 60A and 65A as votes for the override, which is unlikely.

24 DFLers in the Minnesota Senate appear to have a record of voting against bills that restrict legal abortions (it appears the Senate didn’t vote on a bill or an amendment that would eliminate public funding for abortioN). I included SD7 on the list because Roger Reinert replaced Yvonne Pretnner Solon and he voted against the measure in the House. I did not include DFL Sen. John Harrington on the list. He replaced DFL Sen. Mee Moua in SD67. That means the vote would be two short of the override in the Senate if Harrington votes for the override – which is a big “If.”

A key question is what kind of political pressure MCCL would put on lawmakers to vote for an override. The group is politically powerful (just ask DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar in Minnesota’s 8th how valuable the MCCL endorsement is in rural Minnesota).

But any veto override scenario goes the other way as well. Several Democrats who may oppose legal abortion may vote to sustain a veto in order to protect the governor. Several lawmakers believe it’s the governor’s prerogative to veto legislation and routinely vote against override attempts. Others may worry that circumventing the governor could mean political payback or a DFL challenge.

Of course, this may not be the final course of action on this issue. The House and Senate could pass the measure as a ballot initiative which would bypass Governor Dayton and go directly to the voters of Minnesota. A majority of those voting in that election would have to vote yes on the initiative for it to be included in the Minnesota Constitution.

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