Over her eight terms as a Congresswoman from Maryland’s Eight District, Connie Morella earned a reputation one of the strongest voices for women’s rights and reproductive choice in the Republican Party. A bipartisan-minded moderate, she worked with members of both parties to shepherd the 2000 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act through the House with a 415 to 3 majority. Like former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), she hardly recognizes her party today.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Morella expressed disappointment with the anti-women voting record of the 24-member Republican Women’s Policy Committee and the lack of bipartisan House support for the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.
Among her observations:
On the GOP’s move to the right:I think the [Republican] Party has moved more towards the right and it has become more solidified in terms of not offering opportunities for other voices to be heard. Look at [Indiana Republican Senate Nominee Richard] Mourdock’s statement when he proclaimed victory: I’m not going to give into them, they’re going to come over to me. The word compromise is not even in the lexicon, let alone an understanding of what it means.
On moderates in Congress:I went to Harvard in 2008. My program’s theme was “An Endangered Species: A Moderate in the House of Representatives.” If I were to go back now, I think I’d have to say “An Extinct Species,” not endangered, extinct.
On the GOP-only Women’s Policy Committee:I’ve always said that when you look at Congress, you had more bipartisanship with Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. The number of issues has gotten smaller… I was the prime sponsor in 2000 of the Violence Against Women Act, when it was reauthorized… On the floor, there was hardly a vote against it. And now, I don’t know why these women have been cornered, so to speak. Maybe they are motivated by the fact that this is an election year — and in a presidential election particularly, they want to act to counter the concept of the War on Women. That’s why they’re coming up with their own caucus, I suppose. I’ve always felt [the women’s caucus] needed to be bipartisan… I think it’s a defensive attempt on the part of this caucus, because they’re concerned.
On a backlash for the GOP’s votes on women’s issues:Women are a majority of the voting bloc. If they sense that some of the equities they worked so hard for are being taken away, you’ll see a backlash.
While she thinks the economy will be the biggest issue in the 2012 elections, she warns that if House Republicans insist on a Violence Against Women Act that says “except certain women,” it could hurt the party in November.
Morella says she’s disappointed with where the Republican Party has gone. “If I were there, I’d be one of the minorities voting against the party. There’s no big tent, not even a small tent. It collapsed.”