Conservatives watched with shock and dismay as Republicans controlled Congress and the White House for two years but refused to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Well, the reason for this betrayal in 2017 and 2018 is the same reason it will happen again in 2021 if Republicans win back the House with the same GOP leaders, such as Kay Granger.
If conservatives work their tails off during this election year and Republicans win back the House, what is the best result they can expect? People like Kay Granger, R-Texas, serving as the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. But what is the point of winning back the House if the one writing the most important budget bills is a big-spending Republican who is not reliably pro-life?
Granger, a 24-year incumbent from the Fort Worth area, has just a 43% Liberty Score from Conservative Review. As the ranking member of the House committee responsible for all the appropriations bills, the most vital job of Congress, she is slated to become chairwoman if Republicans win back the House. However, for the first time in her career, she is facing a stiff challenge from a local businessman and former Colleyville City Council member Chris Putnam.
During a candidate forum Monday night at the Blue Mesa Grill in Fort Worth, Granger was questioned by Judge Josh Burgess, a local GOP judge who served as moderator, about a 2007 interview with MSNBC in which she emphatically declared herself to be “pro-choice.” At the time, Granger had already been in Congress as a Republican for a decade, and the MSNBC host naturally expected her to be pro-life. She was asked a question about penalties for those who have an abortion in Texas, under the hypothetical scenario that then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney would allow states to prohibit abortions.
“Well, you’re talking to someone who doesn’t have that opinion, first of all … I don’t agree with that … I am a pro-choice Republican,” said Granger in the September 2007 interview. “The one thing I think that also is important is that Mitt Romney is saying that he has a place for a lot of people and a lot of opinions, but that is the position he is going to take.”
At last night’s forum, when confronted with these comments, Granger replied, “As I said for the last 10 years, it’s a record, you can look at my record, I’ve been pro-choice – strongly pro-choice – worked on that, received credits for that.” Here is the full audio of the Q&A, exclusively obtained by CR from someone who attended the forum.
Obviously, this was a verbal gaffe and she likely meant to say she has been pro-life. But when you listen to the rest of her comment, she doesn’t sound like she is a zealous convert to the pro-life cause. She says she started out in Congress with a different position: “I don’t know how long that was showing, I wish I were still that young,” said Granger. However, she also said that she “evolved” and changed, “just like President Trump’s position has changed.”
The problem with her statement is that she doesn’t sound like someone who became a fervent convert to the cause like Reagan or Trump. Such a person would clearly remember her prior position but would be empathically promising to deliver on the issue now. In fact, in the case of Granger, that promise would already have been kept, as a top appropriator when Republicans controlled all three branches. Yet she voted for every single budget bill funding Planned Parenthood during that era. Nor does she promise to change her ways in the future.
There’s no record of Granger announcing a major cathartic change in her worldview during the course of her career. She merely voted along with the party on stand-alone life legislation that was never going to become law, but when she had the opportunity to lead on must-pass funding bills, she was nowhere to be seen.
Putnam, who was a guest on my podcast last Friday, is posing what appears to be the most serious challenge to a major incumbent in a GOP primary since Dave Brat successfully challenged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia primary in 2014. Putnam has raised over $500,000 so far, according to FEC records, and the Club for Growth is backing him with over $1 million in ads. The Club is known for only engaging against incumbents in races they feel are winnable.
For his part, Putnam expressed frustration to me about Republican accomplishments in Congress besides the tax cuts. “With trifecta control for two years … we didn’t fundamentally solve the border issue, we did nothing with immigration, we did nothing to defund Planned Parenthood,” lamented Putnam on my podcast. “There was just a tremendous opportunity after eight years of an Obama administration to do a lot of great conservative reform-minded things, and did nothing.”
The salient thing about this district is that it is very conservative and encompasses the only remaining metro area that is still Republican. “This district is deeply fiscally and socially conservative, and it’s been represented for 24 years now by a liberal Republican,” said Putnam.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.