FRC Takes “Leave of Absence” From Values Action Team

Yesterday we highlighted a paragraph from a World Magazine article noting that the Family Research Council had pulled out of Sen. Sam Brownback’s “Values Action Team” due to his support of Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to be Secretary Health and Human Services.  

Today, CBN’s David Brody got FRC to go on the record about the decision and Tom McClusky explained that it was more of a “temporary leave of absence” that will be re-evaluated once this nomination is over rather than an outright withdrawal, saying that it was done not just to send a message to Sen. Brownback, but to all Republicans senators about how important this is to the Religious Right and their grassroots activists:

The Brody File has learned that the Family Research Council is taking a “temporarily leave of absence” from the socially conservative “Values Action Team” meetings on Capitol Hill because of Senator Sam Brownback’s support of pro-choice HHS Secretary-Designate Kathleen Sebelius. FRC says they may rejoin the meetings AFTER the Sebelius nomination is finished.

Senator Brownback chairs those “VAT” meetings every week on Capitol Hill and he is one of the biggest pro-life defenders in the Senate. However, he issued a statement this past week in support of Kathleen Sebelius. Pro-Life groups believe her record on abortion is extreme and have been very disappointed that he has not come out against her.

A source inside the meeting tells the Brody File that FRC explain to Brownback its’ intentions to no longer attend the meetings. At that point, Senator Brownback actually offered to step down from leading the VAT meetings though nobody in the room asked him to do so. In addition, this source says when Brownback was asked by a meeting participant how he would vote on Sebelius, the Senator remained uncommitted.

The Brody File interviewed Tom McClusky, Senior Vice-President of FRC Action about FRC’s decision to leave the VAT meetings:

“It was a very tough decision except the Family Research Council thought that while we try to fight against this Sebelius nomination and to bring her record to light that it would be better if we took a temporary leave of absence from the values action team…

“We will re-evaluate after the Sebelius nomination if we should go forward with the values Action Team. It’s just that right now we feel somewhat compromised in trying to use that as a vehicle to get our message across.”

On a related note, Dan Gilgoff reports on the explanation the Brownback camp is giving for its support of Sebelius, claiming to be doing so in order to get her out of the state and away from a possible run for Brownback’s open Senate seat in 2010 … but FRC isn’t buying that either:

[S]ources tell me that Brownback’s people have been making the case to antiabortion groups—especially those in Kansas—that there’s a strong political rationale for installing the Kansas governor in Washington. The move gets her out of Kansas, Brownback’s argument goes, heading off her expected run for the Senate in 2010. Which means the Sunflower State Senate seat that Brownback’s vacating for a gubernatorial run is likely to stay in Republican hands, since the Kansas Democratic Party doesn’t have another candidate who is half as popular as Sebelius. And that’s good for the antiabortion cause, according to the reasoning.

“It was much more important that the Senate seat remain red than it was that Brownback directly oppose Sebelius at HHS,” says one person familiar with the situation who would only speak anonymously, “given that Obama is going to be driving the HHS agenda regardless of who’s in charge.”

A second source, Family Research Council Action lobbyist Tom McClusky, told me today that he’s now heard Brownback’s argument for backing Sebelius from a half-dozen Republican senators. But that doesn’t mean antiabortion groups support the plan. “It’s wrong on two counts,” McClusky tells me. “They’re putting politics before policy. And secondly, the Republicans are trying to predict an election two years out, which is impossible.”