Texas abortion ban backlash is distraction from other issues: Cassidy


(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden and Democrats are using the outcry over the new Texas abortion law to distract from other issues including Afghanistan, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Sunday.

“(The Supreme Court’s decision) had nothing to do with the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade, it was only on if the plaintiffs had standing, people are using it to gin up their base to distract from disastrous policies in Afghanistan, maybe for fundraising appeals,” Cassidy told ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos. “I wish we’d focus on issues as opposed to — as opposed to theater.”

The severe new abortion law in Texas bans nearly all abortions in the state. The law makes most abortions illegal after six weeks of pregnancy and encourages anyone to sue a person they believe is providing an abortion or assisting someone in getting an abortion after six weeks.

In a 5-4 decision released late Wednesday night, the Supreme Court rejected a request by Texas abortion providers to block the new law.

Cassidy, who called himself “pro-life,” said the Supreme Court will “swat it away” once the law reaches them “in an appropriate manner.”

“If it is as terrible as people say it is, it will be destroyed by the Supreme Court,” Cassidy added. “But to act like this is an assault upon Roe v. Wade is, again, something the president is doing I think to distract from his other issues.”

Pressed further by Stephanopoulos on whether he thinks the Supreme Court decision signals they plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, Cassidy deflected, instead bringing up Hurricane Ida, Afghanistan and the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

“We can always talk theoreticals,” Cassidy responded. “But I’m kind of a guy who’s in the middle of a state in which 700,000 people don’t have electricity, in which we’ve got a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the administration is pushing a $3.5 trillion bill which will be to inflation what the withdrawal was to Afghanistan.”

Debate continues over the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that many Democrats demand pass in conjunction with the bipartisan infrastructure deal that Cassidy helped negotiate. On Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for a “strategic pause” on the budget resolution Democrats took the first step in passing last month.

Stephanopoulos asked Cassidy whether Manchin’s op-ed effectively kills the bill.

“You saw Senator Joe Manchin’s statement this week. As far as you’re concerned, does that kill the bill? And if it does, does it worry you that the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the smaller one that you support, will also die?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Implicit in what Joe said is that he would accept a smaller (reconciliation) bill,” Cassidy responded. “I think a smaller bill is disastrous, but on the other hand, the two are delinked.”

“There’s going to be a vote on September the 27th on the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” Cassidy added. “The very fact that Joe is saying he has to negotiate means that the vote on the $3.5 trillion inflation-igniting bill that comes later will come later.”

Cassidy said he is concerned that if Manchin’s opposition stands, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not pass the smaller bipartisan bill.

“Of course, I’m concerned about that, which is why I want Republicans to vote for it, too,” Cassidy said. “It should not be a party line vote in the House, it wasn’t in the Senate.”

The infrastructure bill includes provisions for disaster mitigation, which Cassidy brought up, encouraging those planning to vote no to tell people with no power due to Hurricane Ida.

“I say go down to Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish, to people who will not have electricity back until September 29th and tell them you’re going to vote against a bill which hardens our grid, which gives coastal restoration dollars, which has flood mitigation, which will build levees and protect Louisiana and other states from natural disasters, go to those parishes and tell them whatever cockamamie reason you have to vote no,” Cassidy said.

Hurricane Ida made landfall on Aug. 26, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina did in 2005. The hurricane has left at least 67 dead in eight states.

On Thursday, Cassidy penned a letter to Biden requesting emergency disaster relief for Louisiana and met with him in his state on Friday.

Asked whether he is satisfied with Biden’s initial response, Cassidy told Stephanopoulos the situation is getting better.

“The federal partners have been there,” Cassidy said. “And so, I compliment the federal partners and thank them for that, but we need gasoline and we need electricity and we need housing. And then we need to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill for the long term.”

On the other crisis his state is battling — COVID-19 — Cassidy, a physician, said the delta variant case count is falling but vaccine rates remain low. He also encouraged people to get vaccinated.

“Our immunization rates are still way too low and our ICUs still have too many patients related to what is essentially a vaccine-preventable disease,” Cassidy said. “Yes, it’s getting better, but we can imagine future waves.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.