Catholic Nebraska lawmaker leaves Democratic Party over its pro-abortion views — By: Catholic News Agency

Nebraska state Sen. Mike McDonnell, who had been a registered Democrat for 40 years before this week, said that his party change was caused by the Democratic Party’s refusal to respect his pro-life views, which he said is grounded in his Catholic faith. / Credit: Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Legislature

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 4, 2024 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

A pro-life Catholic lawmaker in the Nebraska Legislature is switching his party registration from Democrat to Republican because of the Democratic Party’s staunch support of abortion. 

Sen. Mike McDonnell, who had been a registered Democrat for 40 years before this week, said in a news conference that his party change was caused by the Democratic Party’s refusal to respect his pro-life views, which he said is grounded in his Catholic faith. He was first elected in 2016.

“Today, I am announcing I am now going to be a registered Republican in the state of Nebraska,” McDonnell said.

While serving in the Legislature, McDonnell was the lone Democrat to support a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions in the state — that bill did not pass. He was also the only Democrat to vote for a bill that prohibited doctors from providing transgender drugs and surgeries to minors, which ultimately passed and was signed into law.

Because of these votes, the Democratic Party of Douglas County withdrew its support for McDonnell and stripped him of his voting rights on internal matters within the county party. He later faced a censure from the Democratic Party of Nebraska.

“I asked the Democratic Party of Douglas County to respect that I’m pro-life — that I’m a member of the Roman Catholic Church and my beliefs are based on that,” McDonnell said in the news conference. “Douglas County Democrats, instead of respecting it, they decided to punish it.” 

McDonnell said he ran for office as a “pro-life, pro-union, pro-Second Amendment” Democrat who “wanted to see how we could grow our state and reduce our property taxes at the same time.” 

Switching parties, McDonnell added, “is not an easy decision,” recalling that his grandfather told him when he was 10 years old that their family was three things: “We’re Irish, we’re Catholic, and we’re Democrats.” 

“It’s never easy for someone to make this kind of decision, but what makes it easier is the people standing behind me,” McDonnell said while surrounded by Republican lawmakers during the announcement. “Over the last year, regardless of my decision switching parties, they have been so supportive.”

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb responded to the announcement with a statement that said the Democratic Party will continue to support “reproductive freedom and the human rights of the LGBTQ community.”

“Our decision to censure Sen. McDonnell was never about him being a pro-life Catholic,” Kleeb said. “Our decision was based on our party reaffirming our core values to protect women’s ability to make health decisions and to keep politicians out of our personal health decisions. We respect the ongoing work of Sen. McDonnell on behalf of unions and his commitment to protect a fair electoral vote system we have in our state.”

McDonnell’s announcement will significantly shake up Nebraska politics by giving Republicans a two-thirds majority in the state’s unicameral legislature. To overcome a filibuster, most bills need support from two-thirds of the body.

In a statement following McDonnell’s announcement, the Nebraska Republican Party touted its now “filibuster-proof Republican majority.”

“The [Nebraska Republican Party] welcomes Sen. McDonnell as our newest champion of conservative values,” the statement read. “Sen. McDonnell was censured by the Nebraska Democratic Party in a monthslong push to hold him accountable for his votes to protect the unborn and place commonsense guidelines on gender-affirming care.”

Some Nebraska Republicans are pushing legislation to change the process by which the state doles out Electoral College delegates in presidential elections, which could affect the 2024 presidential election. An effort to force a floor vote on the legislation failed by a large margin on Wednesday, but supporters of the change are continuing to pressure Republicans to get on board.

In Nebraska, the candidate who wins the plurality of votes in the state receives two of the five delegates — the remaining three are awarded based on plurality votes within each of the three congressional districts. In 2020, former President Donald Trump won four delegates from the state and President Joe Biden won one delegate.

The lawmakers are hoping to switch to a winner-take-all allocation of delegates, which would likely guarantee that Trump receives all five delegates in the 2024 election if the effort is successful. However, McDonnell has indicated he is against the proposal.

Read More