- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2019

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s flip-flop on using taxpayer money for abortion highlights what Trump campaign officials consider an inevitable weakness of all Democratic presidential candidates and Mr. Biden in particular — their primary battle for liberal voters will force the nominee too far left for the general election against President Trump.

Mr. Biden on Thursday night reversed a position he’s held since 1976, saying he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions. The shift puts him in line with his top rivals for the Democratic nomination.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said Mr. Biden’s reversal is a sign of more flip-flops to come.

“After [43] years of one policy position, he flips on the Hyde Amendment,” Mr. Murtaugh told The Washington Times in a recent interview. “He is jettisoning all his prior held beliefs because he knows he can’t run in the center. There’s no way that he can run as a centrist and be successful.”

Mr. Biden’s change of position was technically a flip-flop-flip. He told an ACLU volunteer in South Carolina last month that the Hyde Amendment “can’t stay.” But his campaign said as recently as Wednesday that Mr. Biden still supported the amendment.



Then he announced Thursday night that “circumstances change,” adding that abortion is “under attack,” especially for minorities and the poor.

“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” Mr. Biden said.

Liberal actress Alyssa Milano, who considers Mr. Biden a friend, may have had a hand in his reversal. The Atlantic reported that the night before Mr. Biden went public with his new position, Ms. Milano spoke with Biden campaign Greg Schultz about the need for the former vice president to change on the Hyde Amendment.

Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said the move was a “tough personal decision” for Mr. Biden.

“The vice president feels like in this moment of crisis on choice, that he does not want to be foreclosing off any avenue for women receiving the health care that they need,” she said on CNN.

A senior Biden campaign adviser downplayed his about-face on taxpayer funding for abortion, likening his shift on the issue to his evolution on gay marriage and saying Mr. Biden is an authentic candidate who’s willing to listen.

“He’s the same Joe Biden last night that he is today — somebody that’s listening, somebody who’s authentic, and that’s what you’re going to continue to hear from him on the campaign trail,” adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN. “Voters know who Joe Biden is. He is someone that has these deeply personal held beliefs. He’s someone that believes in connecting with people, but he’s also somebody that believes in listening.”

Trump campaign officials say the change will put Mr. Biden out of step with general election voters, noting the Hyde Amendment has been approved annually on a bipartisan basis in Congress since 1976.

Mr. Murtaugh said Mr. Biden’s reversal is an indication of a bigger challenge facing the eventual Democratic nominee in the fall of 2020.

“There’s no centrist space, and you’ve got to get left,” he said. “No matter who the Democrats put up in the end, it makes no difference. They all know where the policy lane is. It’s going to get narrowed down to one obvious path that the radical wing of that party is directing everybody towards.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Mr. Trump’s “steadfast pro-life leadership stands in stark contrast to 2020 Democrats’ uniform extremism on the abortion issue.”

“While Joe Biden may be taking a political expedient position in the Democratic primary as candidates race to the left on abortion, he will pay the price in the general election,” she said. “Joe Biden is supposed to be the one candidate who can win back working-class Democrats who backed Trump — this will prove to be a fatal move should he be the nominee.”

In his 2007 book, “Promises to Keep,” Mr. Biden said he had stuck to a “middle-of-the-road” position on abortion for more than 30 years.

“I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding, and I’d like to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion, but I will also vote against a constitutional amendment that strips a woman of her right to make her own choice,” he wrote.

The Hyde Amendment was intended as a compromise after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Under the Hyde Amendment, taxpayer money doesn’t fund abortion.

The language is now a staple in annual spending bills Congress passes, meaning that sitting representatives and senators running for president who say it needs to go have likely voted for it at one time or another — just like Mr. Biden.

Bailey Vogt and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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