The head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm has cancelled plans to fundraise for Rep. Dan Lipinski — one of the party’s last remaining anti-abortion stalwarts — after facing fierce backlash from the party’s left flank.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced Wednesday that she is pulling out of next month’s fundraiser in her home state, as a slew of new anti-abortion laws in predominantly Republican states have catapulted the issue to the forefront of national politics and, likely, the 2020 election.
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“I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” Bustos said in a statement. “I’ve determined that I must cancel my participation in this event.”
The abrupt course reversal by the first-term chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is a sign of the enormous weight that the House’s progressive wing carries — as well as the fragile balance for House Democratic leaders as they attempt to preserve a sprawling new majority made up dozens of centrists.
It also demonstrates the key role that abortion rights will play in the next election, with a potential Supreme Court challenge of Roe v. Wade on the line during a presidential contest.
Lipinski (D-Ill.), who had helped push for Bustos to become the campaign chief, said in a statement that it became clear that her participation in the fundraiser had “become a distraction.”
“We agree that it is in the best interest of House Democrats that she does not attend the event,” Lipinski said.
Still, Bustos — who, like Lipinski, serves in a GOP-leaning district — signaled that the Democratic campaign arm would still offer financial resources to Lipinski for reelection.
“This does not change how I will work as DCCC Chair to protect our big tent Democratic caucus,” she said. “Even though we may not agree with each other 100 percent of the time, it’s a fact that every dollar spent trying to defeat one of our Democratic incumbents is a dollar that we cannot spend defeating Republicans.”
The decision, which was first reported by the New York Times, is a clear nod to progressive members and outside groups, who have also criticized Bustos for codifying a DCCC policy that prohibits vendors and consultants from working with candidates challenging incumbents since March. Her decision to fundraise with Lipinski added more fuel to the fire.
Bustos stands by the policy and has given no indication that she will reverse course, which has continue to irritate the caucus’s left flank, particularly lawmakers who, themselves, ousted more moderate incumbent Democrats.
“It’s a smart move and I’m glad she listening to progressive voices,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who has sharply criticized Bustos’ for her handling of the vendor policy. “I appreciate that Cheri has shown a willingness to listen and change. I hope she’ll take the same approach on the vendor blacklist issue. I remain committed to sitting down with her and seeking a principled compromise.”