The House renewed a confrontation with President Clinton on an emotionally and politically charged issue Wednesday by overwhelmingly approving legislation that would outlaw a controversial abortion procedure, sending the measure to the White House for a promised veto.
Lawmakers voted296-132, largely along party lines, to agree to relatively minor changes the Senate made nearly five months ago to the identical legislation that Clinton rejected last year regarding so-called partial-term abortions.
The House voted to overturn Clinton’s veto last year, but Senate leaders failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority.
In letters to Democratic lawmakers earlier this week, Clinton reaffirmed his vow to reject the bill. “Should the House agree to the Senate amendment and send (the bill) to me for signature, I will veto the legislation,” he wrote Tuesday.
Congressional officials are expected to quickly deliver the bill to the White House but probably will not attempt a veto override until next year, according to Rep. Charles T. Canady, R-Fla., the bill’s prime sponsor.
One reason for waiting until next year is to give Senate leaders time to try to round up enough votes to overturn the veto.
While the margin of Wednesday House vote - the fifth time the body has voted on the issue in two years - was well above what would be needed to overturn a veto, the Senate fell three votes short of a two-thirds majority when it approved the measure May 20. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., told reporters Wednesday there was a “good chance” bill supporters would prevail. “We believe the Senate is within a vote or two of being able to override a veto,” he said.
In addition, pushing an override attempt into 1998 would put it closer to the congressional elections. Canady rejected suggestions that the timing of the votes was intended to maximize the political impact. Public opinion polls show Americans strongly opposed to the procedure.
“There’s no magic time to do it,” Canady said. “This is the kind of issue that has some staying power.”
Abortion rights supporters complained the congressional push on this issue has more to do with politics than with banning the procedure.