With Illinois remaining in political and budgetary gridlock, the governor may soon face challenges from within his own party.
Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican elected in 2014, may sign Illinois House Bill 40. If passed, it would provide state funding for abortions through Medicaid and state health insurance programs. The bill also contains a provision to prevent the decriminalization of abortion in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The governor this spring indicated he would veto the bill. However, Rauner was noncommittal at last week’s Illinois State Fair about whether he will sign the bill. Rauner routinely declares that he supports "women’s reproductive rights."
Rauner similarly angered Republican activists a year ago on another law regarding abortion. He signed a bill requiring medical professionals opposed to abortion to provide information and referrals for patients still seeking one. Consequently, a judge blocked enforcement of the law.
Recent attention has focused on his wife’s position and influence within the administration. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed Diana Rauner’s involvement in speeches and political strategy.
Both Governor and First Lady Rauner contributed generously to groups such as Planned Parenthood, before and after he assumed office in 2015. The Rauners’ continuous support for groups associated with abortion rights has long concerned pro-life segments of the party.
Terri Koyne, a former Republican Party county chairperson, said a Rauner signature to House Bill 40 might be enough for his party support to collapse. She explained:
"If he signs or allows this bill to become law and you are a social conservative, this should be enough to say that you can no longer support him. . . . If you are a fiscal conservative, this should be enough to say that you can no longer support him."
Rauner won in a crowded primary field in 2014. He could become vulnerable should enough anti-Rauner sentiment coalesce around a single primary challenger. William J. Kelly, a television producer, is the only other declared candidate in next year’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
Much of Rauner’s tenure has been marked by a budget impasse between the Republican governor and Democratic-controlled legislature. A legislative override of Rauner’s veto last month formally ended the stand-off. Yet battles over school funding may still instigate a downgrading of Illinois’ credit rating.
Combined with these other challenges, Rauner's decision on Illinois House Bill 40 may prove pivotal to his political future in 2018.