Illinois GOP Gov. Rauner faces conservative fury for expanding taxpayer-funded abortions

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Illinois GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to expand taxpayer-funded abortions has sparked outrage from state and congressional Republicans who say he flip-flopped on the issue and are now hinting at a primary challenge.

The backlash built last week after the first-term governor signed a bill allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. It spread this week to Capitol Hill, where the state's entire House Republican delegation blasted the decision.

“In a reversal of long-standing Illinois policy, Governor Rauner has let down Illinois taxpayers and the unborn by signing” the state bill, GOP Reps. Peter Roskam, John Shimkus, Randy Hultgren, Rodney Davis, Adam Kinzinger, Darin LaHood and Mike Bost said in a statement.

The lawmakers issued the statement Tuesday, the same day they and other Republicans in the GOP-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to impose criminal penalties on anybody who performs or attempts to perform an abortion on a fetus after 20 weeks -- with exceptions for incest, rape and saving the mother’s life.


The pushback from state Republicans to the governor's decision was more immediate and visceral. Illinois state GOP Rep. Peter Breen argued that Rauner, in signing the bill, double-crossed voters, GOP state legislators and even Chicago's Cardinal Blasé Cupich. Rauner reportedly had pledged earlier to oppose the measure.

“I mean, you lied to a priest,” Breen told a local radio station. “This guy is done.”

'Governor Rauner has let down Illinois taxpayers and the unborn.'

— Statement from Illinois' U.S. House Republicans

Breen said the bill signing was “the straw, for me, that broke the camel’s back” and claimed it has badly damaged Rauner’s credibility and political future.

He also suggested a Rauner primary challenge in 2018 was “inevitable” but that he doesn’t plan to mount one, in liberal-leaning Illinois.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives said she “wouldn’t rule out” running against Rauner, who is seeking a second term, according to Politico.

Rauner campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski issued a statement saying voters know Rauner "is leading the effort to overcome [Speaker] Mike Madigan's political machine and deliver more jobs, better results for taxpayers and term limits."

Rauner, a former venture capitalist with a massive reelection war chest, also upset conservative and other critics in August when he signed a plan that limits the role local and state police play in cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

And in July, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly overrode his gubernatorial veto to allow a multibillion-dollar tax increase, further upsetting conservative critics .

The Associated Press contributed to this report.