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Democrats see these votes as beneficial to their vulnerable incumbents as the party stares down a Senate map that’s highly favorable to the GOP.

Senate’s summer of show votes sparks GOP divisions

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is embracing the art of the “show vote” to boost his vulnerable incumbents this summer, a reflection of the steep uphill climb Democrats face as their majority hangs by a thread.

It began last month with the border security deal, putting red-state Democrats on the record once again in support of what they say is the strictest bipartisan border crackdown in decades.

Now, Schumer is teeing up a series of votes on abortion-related legislation for June, beginning later today with a procedural vote on the Right to Contraception Act. Schumer also started the process to vote later this month on legislation protecting IVF. And he says more votes are coming.

Republicans are dismissing the Schumer campaign as an election-year ploy. This is a unifying message among GOP senators.

“They are more interested in playing politics than they are actually about securing the very things they’re talking about,” Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) said. “They’ve engaged in a summer of scare tactics, and they don’t care about the false fear they’re creating in women and families.”

But that’s where their consensus ends.

GOP clashes over abortion strategy: As is often the case, Democrats are unified here while Republicans showed new signs of strategic division this week.

As we scooped in Tuesday’s PM edition, Republicans sparred during their closed-door lunch over whether to vote to advance the Democratic contraception bill in a bid to go on offense over the issue, according to multiple attendees.

The goal, these members said, would be to force votes on amendments and potentially a side-by-side vote on Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act. This is the GOP alternative to the Democrats’ bill. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was among those making the case to vote in favor of advancing the Democratic bill.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who’s running for GOP leader, then chimed in and suggested that Republicans should all stick together if the plan is to vote to advance the measure.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune quickly shot down this idea, we’re told, saying it does Republicans no good to drag out a process that Democrats are simply using as a political cudgel against Republicans. In other words, it’s a trap — and GOP senators should quickly dispense with it.

Before the GOP lunch, we asked Thune whether he’s concerned about the month-long Democratic effort to highlight abortion on the floor, especially since the issue has proven to be effective for Democrats since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Thune said it’s something Republican candidates this year will “need to have a clear answer for.”

“The Democrats don’t have a lot else to talk about [because] they don’t want to talk about inflation, they don’t want to talk about the border,” Thune said. “And frankly it’s an issue that — yeah, there’s some political traction with it out there.”

How far will Schumer go? The Democratic leader isn’t saying what he’ll do after the abortion votes this month, but he could extend the strategy to other areas as well.

Of course, actual legislative days will be few and far between the closer we get to Nov. 5. However, it’s reasonable to ask whether Schumer will continue the “show vote” effort for other legislation that Democrats think they could benefit from.

That could mean voting on the Wyden-Smith tax bill at some point. Senate Republicans almost uniformly oppose it, as do a few Democrats. But there could be some political advantages for vulnerable Democrats voting on the package, which includes tax benefits for Ohio residents impacted by last year’s train derailment in East Palestine, as well as an expansion of the child tax credit.

Schumer declined to say Tuesday whether he plans on bringing up the measure this summer, citing GOP opposition.

— Andrew Desiderio

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