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Doug Finke

STATEHOUSE INSIDER: Illinois abortion rights bill exposes rift in the Republican Party

Some peeved that governor gave his OK

Some peeved that governor gave his OK

With the fallout continuing over Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to sign the abortion rights bill into law, questions are being raised about whether a significant rift is developing in the state Republican Party.

In the immediate aftermath of the bill signing, several Republican lawmakers said they can no longer support Rauner. Since the Legislature currently isn’t in session, we have yet to see how that will translate when it comes time to actually vote on something the governor wants – or doesn’t want – to pass.

Then there was the announcement last week by state Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, that he would not run for re-election. Harris was one of the handful of House Republicans who voted for the final tax and spending package.

He gave an impassioned speech as the House was preparing to override Rauner’s veto of the deal in which he said he didn’t get elected to preside over the financial ruin of the state. His vote, though, drew the ire of anti-tax Republicans and also drew himself a primary opponent.

In announcing his decision not to run again, Harris told media outlets the Republican Party is at war with itself. He told public radio that he did not see how the infighting would make the party stronger.

Rauner was asked about all of that during an appearance in Chicago last week.

“We have many passionate members of the Republican Party,” Rauner said. “Not everybody is going to agree on every issue. We can have reasonable disagreements. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree.”

He ticked off issues that Republicans can find common ground on, such as lower taxes, more economic growth, less regulations, more efficient government, and political reform like term limits. He said “no group is defined by any one issue.”

That’s no doubt the case, but we’ll see whether the abortion issue – and Rauner’s position on it – is the dominant one as things move forward.

Working miracles?

A new Rauner campaign ad focuses on the recently passed school funding reform bill.

A narrator says the reform has been called “nothing short of a miracle,” which a casual listener might conclude means Rauner is a miracle worker.

The thing is, that phrase was used by an education advocacy group to describe the efforts of Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, in getting the bill passed.

And no, Manar wasn’t mentioned in Rauner’s ad.

Questions? Just ask

There’s been a subtle change to the official schedule put out by Rauner’s office of the governor’s public activities for the day.

In most cases, the schedule does not contain the sentence “No additional media availability.” That’s the line that is used to indicate Rauner will not be answering questions from the news media at a public event.

Unlike many of his predecessors, Rauner is incredibly good at sticking to the script. If his schedule says he won’t be taking questions, you can pretty well bank on it.

So lately, it appears Rauner’s more open to taking questions from the media at these events.

Saying anything new, well, that’s another issue.

‘Trumpian governor'

Illinois and Rauner, by reference, get a mention in Hillary Clinton’s new book “What Happened.”

Near the end of the book Clinton discusses why she didn’t win the election against Donald Trump. She gets into the issue of voter turnout and what she alleges were efforts by Republicans to suppress turnout by traditional Democratic constituencies.

“Among African Americans, turnout was 14 points higher in Illinois than in Wisconsin,” Clinton wrote. “The experience of living under a deeply unpopular Trumpian governor there may also have motivated people to show up and reject the even worse national version.”

Gee, and all of this time Rauner has gone out of his way to not even mention Trump by name.

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