I am a Republican because I am a conservative. And I am a conservative because I believe the Constitution and the ideals it asserts in behalf of all Americans are worth protecting. Even when they are untimely. Even when they are unpopular. And especially, for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the forgotten among us.
Equal rights. Equal opportunity. Equal justice under law. Equal dignity under God.
We fail as Americans when we violate these ideals. When we exclude some number of our neighbors from their God-given share of our common inheritance.
When we declare, in the interests of expedience and in defiance of our national creed, that some people are less equal than others.
Such was the cruelty our nation - through our laws – long visited on African Americans, American Indians, immigrants and ethnic minorities; women; religious minorities like my own forebears in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; the disabled.
Happily, this is no longer the case. All of these groups – who taken together comprise the vast majority of all Americans – were at different times in our history affirmatively brought under the protection of the laws.
This work of inclusion, of expanding the circle of legal and constitutional protection, was not a natural, evolutionary process.
It was the work of vigilant lawmakers advancing the cause of justice at every opportunity, against the entrenched forces of the political status quo.
Republicans in this Congress have undertaken such efforts on behalf of certain priorities: in particular the tax relief and spending increases that are poised to yield a budget deficit of nearly $1 trillion this year.
But no such legislative progress has been achieved advancing the right to life nor the plight of those denied it.
For the second straight year of unified Republican governance – unified pro-life governance – Congress’s annual spending bills will include no new reforms protecting unborn children, or getting federal taxpayers out of the abortion business.
The House version of this Health-and-Human-Services spending bill included multiple reforms:
It denied taxpayer funds to the largest abortion provider in the country, Planned Parenthood;
It eliminated Title X family planning grants, which cross-subsidize abortion providers;
It prohibited federal funding of research on aborted fetal tissue;
It included the Conscience Protection Act protecting pro-life people and groups from funding discrimination.
None of these modest, common-sense spending reforms survived the House-Senate negotiations.
None was made a priority by the people empowered to set the priorities. The authors of this bill defend their 1.3 trillion dollar compromise.
And of course, this being Washington, I know it could always be worse.
But Mr. President, before this bill passes with overwhelming bipartisan support, despite being mostly unread by its supporters, someone ought to speak up for the Americans this legislation leaves behind.
The best measure of any government – of any policy or proposal – is its impact on “the least among us.”
Too often today, Washington acts as though “the least among us” refers to our most vulnerable incumbents rather than our most vulnerable constituents.
This $1.3 trillion spending bill exemplifies that confusion and fails that test. Under this bill, neither the unborn nor taxpayers are any more protected from the abortion industry than they were under President Obama and a unified Democratic Congress.
I understand that fighting on contentious issues comes with a cost. But so does not fighting on them, especially in the rare moments when we could win.
This bill is an opportunity missed – and missed at a time when we can’t be sure how many more we will be given going forward.
Some causes are worth fighting for, even in defeat - the God-given, equal rights and dignity of all human beings paramount among them.
The arc of history may, as I hope, bend toward life. But only if we bend it, Mr. President. I must oppose this legislation, but neither in anger nor sadness.
Rather, in hope, looking forward to another bill, another time – one that stands up for those Americans who ask nothing more than the chance to one day stand up for themselves.
As prepared for delivery