One Striking Fact About Tim Kaine You Might Have Missed
Last week, after months of speculation, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton selected Virginia senator and former governor Tim Kaine to be her running mate, in a move that delighted plenty of Democrats who view him as the safest, most strategic pick, while roiling many on the party's progressive left. And it's not hard to see why ― Kaine was by most measures a pretty moderate Democrat throughout his political career. And yet, some of those positions seem to be evolving by the day. For a prime example, here's one fact about him that you should know heading into the fall ― Tim Kaine reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment, and that could be a big deal to reproductive rights advocates and activists.
If you're not familiar with the Hyde Amendment, which was originally passed in 1976, its effect is pretty straightforward: It prohibits certain types of federal funding from being used for abortion, primarily within the Medicaid system, except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman's life is endangered by her pregnancy. It's been a more-or-less permanent fixture of the abortion rights debate in America over the last 40 years, but recently, it's getting some renewed scrutiny ― the 2016 Democratic platform, for the very first time, includes language calling for its repeal.
Which is why it's such an awkward situation that the party's vice presidential nominee supports it ― or used to support it, that is. As Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur detailed on Wednesday, Kaine is now reversing course, and coming out against the Hyde Amendment, thus squaring himself both with his party's platform, and his new running mate's stated position. Clinton came out in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment back in January, and that was big news, as previously she'd supported it within the broader framework of her pro-choice position.
Make no mistake, this could have some important implications for the race, in either direction. On the one hand, any theory of Kaine's benefits as a running mate that hinged on his centrism on social issues ― he's a lifelong Catholic who's personally opposed to abortion, while recognizing that the government should allow women to make the choice for themselves ― seems to be going out the window.
Regardless of his previous political and personal views, backing a repeal of the Hyde Amendment puts him to the left of the pervading Democratic mainstream over the last several decades, including the Obama administration itself, which still supports the restrictions. He's similarly changed course on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement after being named as Clinton's VP, following her own reversal during the contentious Democratic primary race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
It's a slightly strange tactic, bringing in a level-headed, cool-heeled moderate, then asking him to slide further left on a couple of hot-button issues than he's ever been. One possible explanation: This may speak to Clinton's true thinking in choosing Kaine, rather than a further-left, progressive firebrand who wouldn't have to tweak their positions so much. Not because she fears having a running mate with strong left credentials, but because she admires Kaine and thinks she'll have a good working relationship with him, enough so to make it worthwhile to mold him into a slightly new form. In other words, more of a governing choice than an electoral choice. It remains to be seen how it'll go over with the voters, however.