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Meet the HR3 Ten: Heath Shuler

So! H.R.3 supposedly won’t redefine rape anymore, but the fight’s just getting started. We learned last week that the new Congress followed H.R. 3 with H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act, which would redefine “conscience” clauses to allow pregnant women to die if saving them would require harming the fetus.

And the thing is, the DCCC and other organizations are blaming this on Republicans. But just like the Stupak-Pitts amendment to healthcare reform, this bill comes to us as a special gift from some Democrats, too. Ten of them cosponsor H.R. 3 and did so even with rape-redefining language; four of those ten also apparently don’t care if pregnant women die.

So let’s get to know them, shall we?

Heath Shuler gets my especial ire because he challenged Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader status in the new Congress. Though she easily won, the fact that an antichoice Blue Dog got 43 votes to lead the ostensible Democratic caucus is telling. 24 of the 58 Blue Dogs were defeated in this round of elections, which should’ve taught them the lesson that some of us have been screaming for years–in a choice between Republican-lite and Republican, voters usually go with the real Republican. We can apparently blame Bill Clinton and Rahm Emanuel for Shuler’s running for office in the first place, and Clinton continued to campaign for him even after he voted against two of his party’s major priorities.

In a week when we’ve been talking a lot about rape and NFL quarterbacks, I think we should note that Shuler is also a former NFL quarterback. Take that how you will. He’s also a member of the Family, the secretive religious group described so well by Jeff Sharlet, and called by the New Yorker a “Frat House for Jesus”. You know, along with such pro-woman great dudes as Jim DeMint.

The DCCC spent $231,112.63 on Shuler’s reelection this year in North Carolina’s 11th district. The Blue Dog PAC also kicked in $30,000, and Shuler’s largest individual donor was a company called Phillips & Jordan, to the tune of $56,150. (They contribute mostly to Republicans, but Shuler was by far the biggest recipient of their largesse–hmmm. They appear to get quite a few federal contracts, mostly for demolishing things in New Orleans post-Katrina. I’m not even going to get STARTED on that.)

Speaking of North Carolina, it’s hardly a true-blue state, but it did go Democratic for Obama, and Asheville, the largest city in Shuler’s district, is a pretty lefty spot, a draw for artists and creative types. Ari Berman quotes a few of Shuler’s disaffected constituents:

“We’re so disappointed in Shuler,” said former Polk County Democratic Party chair Margaret Johnson. “We laugh when we think about all that we did for him.” Kathy Sinclair, the former Democratic chair in Buncombe County—the largest in Shuler’s district—was even more blunt. “I’m not sure he is really representing his constituents of Western North Carolina,” she told me last spring. “I didn’t vote for him last time, and I won’t vote for him next time.”

In 2010, Shuler faced a primary challenge from a political unknown, Aixa Wilson, who took 39% of the vote–and won Asheville outright–despite not taking any donations. That’s right, none. That takes skill. Karen Oelschlaeger, an Asheville resident, told me that Shuler refused to debate his primary opponent, skipping a League of Women Voters forum rather than face the opposition.  In 2008, Shuler refused to debate his Republican opponent outside of one AM radio appearance right before election day–Oelschlaeger notes that the Republican took to carrying a cardboard “Shulerman” cutout to debates.

Oelschlaeger says “It is my personal opinion and hope that a well-funded moderate Democrat should/could have a decent chance at winning the district if they ran a solid, serious campaign…”

Shuler’s top earmarks are relatively inoffensive–parks, textile industry, Reading is Fundamental–but there are a few military earmarks in there. Not that that’s not par for the course.

Let’s talk about his votes, then, shall we? Shuler voted against the healthcare bill and against the stimulus package. He (obviously) voted for Stupak-Pitts before voting against the bill. A blogger has posted a form letter from Shuler’s office explaining his “pro-life” standards, but I’d be pretty willing to argue that if he was “pro-life,” he ought to vote for a stimulus bill that was going to support “life” by putting (not enough) people to work. Also, “life” might have included a public health care option that would have covered more people than the current health care bill, but that wasn’t deficit neutral enough for Shuler, who has a “National Debt Clock” on his website.

His complaint about the stimulus was, of course, “too much spending,” though I can’t argue with him that it needed more infrastructure investment. He also voted against the original $700 billion bailout, so at least he’s consistent. He also apparently thinks the Consumer Financial Protection Agency is a waste of money.

He was one of the original 19 Dems who signed on to Stupak’s original threat to torpedo their party’s biggest priority over abortion.

He voted with Republicans to end public funding of elections, presumably because he has no trouble raising money. He also voted for FISA extension, giving “U.S. spy agencies expanded power to eavesdrop on foreign suspects without a court order.”

He also tends to vote with Republicans on war. That’s a very pro-life position, you know. So is wanting Amtrak passengers to be able to transport guns safely.

He also wants a border fence, to crack down on immigration, and is very concerned with collecting “abortion surveillance data.” Because if you want to get an abortion, and he can’t stop you while Roe still exists, he’s not only going to prevent it from being funded any way he can, but then he wants to know who you are. Slut.

I don’t need to tell you what all this spells out, do I? The same representatives who have little regard for the life of pregnant people, are often the ones who hate immigrants, who don’t care about health care, who don’t care about jobs. They do care about corporations’ right to spy on you, and presumably for corporations’ right to buy elections.

And Democrats keep supporting them. They keep campaigning for them and funding them. $231,112.63 of the DCCC’s money just for this one candidate. In addition to Bill Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz went to North Carolina to stump for Shuler–the same Debbie Wasserman Schultz who calls H.R.3 “a violent act against women.”

What does someone have to do to get thrown out of the party? The answer you get from Democrats is usually “Well, it’s better to have an antichoice Democrat than an antichoice Republican.” Better for whom?

So what do we do about it?

I’ve got a couple of answers. They both involve calling, emailing, and visiting your Congresscritter.

You can contact Shuler through his website, or here:

229 Cannon House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC, 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6401
Fax: (202) 226-6422

You can also contact the DCCC here, and tell them what you think of their spending on Democrats like Heath Shuler.

430 S. Capitol St. SE
Washington, DC 20003
Main Phone Number: (202) 863-1500

Next up: Mark Critz.

Sarah Jaffe is a lovely lady who makes lots of trouble. This post originally appeared at her blog, Champagne Candy.


  1. Other Becky wrote:

    Shuler is also a co-sponsor of HR 358. My great-grandfather was a doctor in Asheville starting in the nineteen-teens, and he would have been disgusted by this so-called Democrat.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
  2. Em wrote:

    Critz is from my hometown district. If it’s any consolation, his Repub challenger Tim Burns probably would have been even worse. But, please do rip him a new one. PA’s 12th is a backwater where anti-choice Dems need to be flushed.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink
  3. Other Becky wrote:

    Also, “forcible” is still in HR3. I’d chalk that up to my not understanding the arcana of the legislative process, but the NY Times thought it was worth commenting on, so maybe not.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  4. Travis wrote:

    Yeah, Other Becky is right–in the linked text, “forcible” is still clearly in there. What’s up with that?

    Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  5. canomia wrote:

    All of this is just so completely strange, horrible and impossible to understand for me. Sweden really is a totally different world when it comes to abortion.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  6. a.b. wrote:

    @Canomia Can the US come sleep on your couch for a while?

    Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Katherine wrote:

    What exactly is “Democrat” about this guy? Not his politics, or his votes, that’s for sure. In my part of the world (UK), he’d be on the right of the right, in the mainstream anyway.

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  8. canomia wrote:

    @A.B. Only if the US promises not to go around killing pregnant women and stuff.

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  9. Samantha B. wrote:

    I love that this piece has been so widely promoted in the feminist blogorealm. The DCCC is a fucking problem, and the lady perspective needs to fight back right at the root, and not just the tippy top leaves of anti-woman and -trans policies.

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink