More GOP Showmanship in the House

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WASHINGTON: With the time drawing near for incumbents to go home and campaign, the last weeks of a congressional session inevitably become less about forging legislation and more about campaign commercials. Thursday's House vote to override Clinton's veto of a ban on partial-birth abortions was prime example of showmanship -- and a major résumé-builder for those home-bound Republicans.

"This was a show," says TIME congressional correspondent James Carney. "The Republicans know they haven't got the votes in the Senate, but they know that with a majority of Americans in favor of the ban, they've got a real political winner." The symbolic vote, says Carney, was part of a promise made to the party's most activist -- but lately disgruntled -- wing. "The Christian right felt like they were taken for granted, and they came to the GOP leadership and complained. So they got this vote." But paying fealty to conservatives with the partial-birth issue may have an additional benefit: wooing middle-of-the-road pro-choicers who find the gruesome procedure unpalatable. After all, the GOP has to close that gender gap any way it can.