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Senators to watch as Trump tries to reshape the GOP on abortion

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President Donald Trump’s announcement that abortion should be left to the states sent many in the congressional GOP scrambling. But three senators in particular could feel the squeeze in the coming months.

Some lawmakers are trying a new strategy. Take Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), whose wife just argued an abortion case before the Supreme Court. He aligned with Trump and said Republicans should “make the case anew” to voters to ban abortion at the state level — though that argument hasn’t seemed to work much so far.

“It’s not going to pass,” Hawley said about a push from Republicans in Congress to codify a nationwide ban. “It’s not going to get 60 [votes]. So let’s be realistic. I mean, that’s not going to happen.”

But many Republicans aren’t willing to cede ground on a federal abortion ban, insisting that the party can’t just allow blue states to continue the practice. Count Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in that bucket; he previously introduced a bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks and became a target of Trump’s wrath on Monday.

He’s the most obvious, given that social media blowup, but he’s not alone. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has also critiqued Trump’s abortion position, supported a 15-week federal ban and he’s on the list to potentially join Trump’s ticket as vice president.

And then there’s another potential, but less likely, VP pick whose abortion stance also appears to differ from Trump’s. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) signed on as a cosponsor of Graham’s 15-week-ban bill last term, and abortion is on the ballot in his state this fall. But he’s finding the issue much easier to navigate than the other two.

Here’s more on the three Republican senators to watch:
Graham
He “respectfully disagreed” with Trump on Monday, saying he still felt a nationwide 15-week abortion ban was appropriate. Trump quickly panned that take as a stance that could lose Republicans elections in the fall.

The split is particularly notable given the two’s former status as close allies. Now, Trump is directly contradicting Graham on both abortion and strengthening U.S. national security, two of the South Carolina senator’s biggest priorities. Trump and Graham have been at odds over how to handle an emboldened and aggressive Russia on the world stage.

Graham wouldn’t say Monday whether he’ll re-introduce legislation to ban abortions federally. That could set up an ugly, intra-party clash if Trump wins in November. And Graham, for his part, doesn’t feel Hawley’s optimism about taking the fight to limit abortion to the states.

“For the pro-life movement it’s about the child, not geography,” Graham said. “So if you’re turning the pro-life movement into a geographical movement, I think you’re stuck.”

Scott
Trump’s abortion stance could complicate his veepstakes. Scott also backed a 15-week national ban and used that as a major differentiator in his campaign against Trump for the GOP nomination. And he lobbed strong criticism at Trump for his disinterest in a federal abortion ban.

Scott’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment Tuesday, and he doesn’t usually respond in hallway interviews.

His position could make Scott’s potential selection as VP a bit awkward, given the daylight between their positions. But alternatively, maybe it helps Scott if Trump’s campaign thinks he would help them with anti-abortion groups.

RUBIO

The Florida Republican got targeted by Democrats during his 2022 campaign for cosponsoring Graham’s bill to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy. And the right to the procedure is on his state’s ballot in November. Floridians will get to vote on a state constitutional amendment that could enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution, and an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy is currently slated to take effect in the state.

Despite that intense focus on abortion in his home state, though, Rubio aligned with other senior Republicans on Tuesday in describing Trump’s move as pragmatic, saying the former president’s position didn’t differ too much from his own.

“President Trump was a pro-life president. I think anyone who’s pro-life without having to compromise or abandon your principles, has an obligation to support every law that has a realistic chance of passing. What he said yesterday was the truth that our most realistic chance of limiting the damage that abortion does is at the state level. That’s just a fact,” he said.

Correction: An earlier edition of this version misstated Rubio’s reelection timing and did not give full context on his Tuesday comments on abortion policy.

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