Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) feels like she is on a political island.
The second-term Republican representative from South Carolina has become one of the most vocal critics of her party on core issues and has found herself at the center of key votes in the new Congress.
Most recently, she was one of the final Republican holdouts on a bill to raise the debt limit and implement spending cuts. She came around and backed the measure only after receiving assurances from Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that the House would, among other promises, hold votes on legislation pertaining to reproductive health access and active shooter alerts — two issues that have come to define her profile on the national stage.
Her stances on abortion and guns, however, haven’t significantly moved the needle in the GOP, leaving Mace isolated in a party she believes is heading down a path of defeat.
“I often joke that I live on an island back home, and I feel like I’m on an island — it’s very lonely,” Mace told The Hill in a brief interview on the steps of the Capitol. “I would say this experience in stepping out and not toeing the party line is a very — it’s a very lonely experience in the environment that we’re in today.”
A high school dropout and the first female graduate from The Citadel, Mace has kept her scrappy and stubborn style when it comes to politics.
She airs her grievances with her party publicly, becoming a fixture on Sunday political talk shows. And though she’s come around and voted with her party on most issues — from kicking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) off the Foreign Affairs committee to the debt ceiling bill — she’s done it after extracting promises from leadership and, at the same time, sounding the alarm about the party’s priorities.
Mace, who came to Congress in 2021 after beating a Democratic incumbent by just over 1 point, describes herself as a centrist — “you guys keep calling me a moderate, and I would say centrist” — but her views on abortion and guns have largely isolated her from the rest of the House Republican conference.
Abortion: ‘Don’t be an asshole to women’
Mace describes herself as a pro-life, constitutional conservative, but has been vocal in her belief that there should be exceptions to abortion regulations. The congresswoman — who has publicly spoken about her experience being raped and molested as a teenager — has expressed support for 15-to-20-week abortion bans with exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
That puts her at odds with Republican-led states around the country seeking to implement total or six-week bans.
In January, Mace blamed Republican messaging on abortion for the GOP’s underperformance in the midterms, which left the House conference with a razor-thin majority, calling the party “tone-deaf.” Last month, she warned that Republicans are “going to lose huge” if they “continue down this path of extremities.”
On a number of occasions, Mace has railed against Florida’s newly minted six-week abortion ban, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law last month during a private ceremony late at night. She has particularly zeroed in on the requirement that anyone seeking an exception because of rape, incest or human trafficking provide proof such as a restraining order, police report or medical record.
“You saw a six-week ban in Florida signed in the dead of night … and the requirements for women who’ve been raped. Are you kidding me?” Mace said. “I’m pro-life. I’m saying 15-20 [weeks] with exceptions, and so how we talk about it matters.”
“Don’t be an asshole to women,” she continued.
According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll conducted in April, 33 percent of Republicans mostly support abortion rights, while 65 percent say they are mostly opposed. When surveying time constraints for the medical procedure, just 4 percent of Republicans backed a six-week ban, 26 percent expressed support for a three-month prohibition and 32 percent said the procedure should only be allowed in cases involving rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother. Thirteen percent of Republicans said a total abortion ban aligned most with their opinions.
Mace also made headlines last month when she joined some Democrats in calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ignore a Trump-appointed federal judge’s ruling in Texas that blocked the agency’s approval of mifepristone, a pill used for abortions and managing early miscarriages. The Supreme Court ultimately granted a temporary pause on the Texas ruling while the Biden administration’s emergency request for a stay is considered by the bench.
The relative silence of top GOP political figures on the ruling was a sign of the difficulty the abortion issue has posed for the Republican Party in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade. Despite racking up long-sought pro-life wins, the general electorate in 2022 showed that it is largely in favor of legal abortion access.
Mace has been shouting that sentiment from the rooftops.
“We’re allowing the minority of voices to take over a mainstream issue where I would argue the vast majority of elected officials and our voters agree with where I am, but they’re afraid to say it,” she said. “And they just allow these extreme voices to run away with the issue. And we’re going to lose because of it if we don’t speak up and speak out and do what’s right.”
Guns: ‘We need to have this conversation’
Mace has also been outspoken on the topic of firearms, a hot-button issue after a spate of mass shootings in the U.S.
In April, after a gunman opened fire at a bank in Louisville, Ky., killing five people and injuring eight others, Mace said members of her party “can no longer be silent” on the issue of guns in America. The massacre came days before Republicans gathered in Indianapolis for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, roughly 115 miles away from the bank.
“We need to have this conversation,” Mace told “Fox News Sunday.” “I will tell you, every mass shooting, there’s just silence. … Prayers are offered, Easter baskets are offered, but no real solutions.”
The congresswoman listed off proposals such as instituting AMBER alert-style notifications for shootings, bolstering background checks and hardening schools, churches and synagogues, imploring her party to take some action on the issue.
“We have not learned anything from the midterm elections if we’re going to sit there on our hands silently, not offering any type of solution to reduce gun violence in our country. And it’s not about gun control,” she added.
But last year, when Congress approved the first major piece of legislation to combat gun violence in 30 years — which President Biden later signed into law — Mace did not join the 14 GOP House colleagues or 15 Republican senators who supported the measure.
In a statement following the vote, Mace called the bill “sweeping legislation which jeopardizes Americans’ Constitutional protections.”
Debt limit showdown
Most recently, Mace broke from House Republicans when she initially came out against their legislation to increase the debt ceiling and implement spending cuts. She said the measure did not do enough to reduce the national debt and expressed opposition to nixing tax credits for wind and solar energy, which she said would impact her district.
The congresswoman, however, ultimately flipped her stance and voted in favor of the measure after closed-door negotiations with McCarthy. In exchange for her vote, Mace says she received assurances the House would hold a floor vote on legislation related to women’s access to reproductive health and child care services, in addition to an active shooter alert bill that she will lead.
Mace will also lead a draft on a balanced budget amendment with the backing of McCarthy and will receive a markup discussion on her States Reform Act, which would decriminalize cannabis on the federal level and defer regulation to the states.
“It’s important that I use my one voice and my one vote, my one voice, to advocate and work on the things that South Carolina cares about and the country cares about,” Mace said when discussing her deal with McCarthy. “And I’m going to do everything in my being to be a strong voice.”
Mace said she has not received direct pushback from her colleagues for any of her politically controversial stances.
“You might know better than me at this point,” she said. “I think I intimidate people sometimes.”
“You hear rumors and stuff, but nobody’s ever said anything to us,” she added.
Her postures, however, have consistently left her isolated within an increasingly partisan political party during a hyper-polarized moment in American history.
But that loneliness does not seem to bother her.
“I call the balls and strikes,” Mace said, “and I don’t care if you have an R or D by your name.”
Emily Brooks contributed.