Bart Stupak at Politico:
Abortion rights supporters have spent the past week expressing their outrage over the passage of the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment to the House health care reform bill. This amendment was not the result of a last-minute backroom deal. Anti-abortion Democrats have said since July that we would oppose any rule to bring a health care bill to the floor that did not contain the Hyde language. Rather than work with us to find a true compromise, members who support abortion rights ignored our concerns.
With 64 Democrats — a quarter of the Democrats in the House — voting in favor of the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment, this decision was clearly a mistake on their part.
In a recent POLITICO op-ed (“The Catholic Bishops’ Double Standard,” Nov. 10), Nancy Keenan and Jon O’Brien tried to pit opponents of the amendment against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to distract from the missteps made by abortion rights supporters throughout the process.
Let me be very clear about what the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment actually does and does not do.
Under our amendment, only the public health insurance option and private plans that receive federal subsidies are prohibited from covering abortion services. It does not prevent private plans within the newly created health insurance exchange from offering abortion services, and it does not prohibit individuals purchasing plans in the exchange with their own money from choosing a plan that offers abortion services. It specifically states that even those who choose the public option or receive federal subsidies can purchase a supplemental policy with private money to cover abortion services.
Contrary to what some have said, this amendment explicitly provides exceptions that allow all policies to cover abortion services in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.
Hyde currently prohibits direct federal funding of abortion through programs such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and prohibits federal funding for health insurance policies that cover abortion, as in the case of the FEHBP. The Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment is a continuation of this policy — nothing more, nothing less.
I will continue working with my colleagues in the House and the U.S. Senate to ensure that there is no federal funding for abortion in the final health care bill. President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have said we must keep current laws in place, and the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment does just that.
Mike Lillis at Washington Independent:
With abortion now topic-of-the-moment amid the health reform debate, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) weighed in last night with a prediction certain to please women’s rights groups: Republicans, the Ohio Democrat said, won’t be able to rally even 50 votes — let alone the 60 they’ll need — to pass an amendment restricting abortion coverage on the exchange. The Hill reports:
“I don’t think that it’s a threat at all,” Brown said Monday night during an appearance on MSNBC. “There aren’t more than four or five Democratic senators that I would say are anti-choice. There are at least, I think, two Republican senators who are pro-choice.”
“Again, on an up or down vote — Harry Reid’s not going to put the Stupak language in the bill, I’d be certain,” Brown added. “Then the Republicans will try to amend it into the bill, and they will be unsuccessful; they won’t even get close to 50 votes.”
The “Stupak language” is reference to an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) explicitly prohibiting exchange plans from covering abortions, even in cases when patients’ premiums are set aside for that purpose. Pro-choice House Democratic leaders were forced to include the provision in order to pass their health reform bill earlier this month, but liberal lawmakers are vowing to kill the reform bill if the language remains.
If Brown is right, then the collision between the House bill with the Stupak language and the Senate bill without it would take place during the conference negotiations between yet-unnamed leaders of both chambers.
On a great number of bills, it’s the Senate that’s been the bottleneck in recent years. It’s worth noting, though, that it was an abortion amendment that killed last year’s attempt to improve the Native American health care system — a bill that passed the Senate, but was never taken up in the House for the recognition that the abortion provision would likely survive.
Having invested so much time and political capital in health reform this year, Democrats won’t have the same option of simple abandonment. Instead, they’re likely going to have to come up with some delicately nuanced Stupak compromise.
After the House adopted the Pelosi Plan for ObamaCare with the Stupak amendment barring any federal funds for abortion coverage, Democrats attempted to assuage pro-abortion advocates by committing to changing the language in conference committee. Even the White House got in on the act, with David Axelrod promising that Bart Stupak’s language would be “adjusted” before any bill came to the Oval Office. Today on Fox News, Stupak threatened to kill the bill entirely if Democrats “adjusted” his amendment — and took a shot at David Axelrod as well
Stupak says he has somewhere between 10-20 votes that would flip if they strip his amendment. That’s a far cry from his 40 votes when he insisted on getting an up-or-down vote in the first place. It wouldn’t keep the conference bill from getting passed in the House, but his activism on the issue may make it stickier for Democrats to do anything in the Senate to water it down. Ben Nelson has already demanded Stupak’s language in the Senate bill before he’ll allow it to proceed, which will infuriate other Senate Democrats like Barbara Boxer.
Responding to White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod’s contention that the Stupak measure goes too far and would have to be “adjusted,” the Michigan lawmaker responded, “We won fair and square…. [T]hat is why Mr. Axelrod is not a legislator, he doesn’t really know what he is talking about.”
Exactly who doesn’t know what he’s talking about is open to some debate.
Here’s what we know at this point. First, Stupak had claimed that he representing a voting bloc of 40 votes, but as of this morning, he believes his faction is made up of “at least 10 to 15 to 20” House Dems who oppose abortion rights. For Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership, making up the loss of 40 votes is impossible to overcome. A 10-vote bloc represents a serious problem — it would require some Dems who voted against the bill to change their minds — but not an insurmountable hurdle.
Second, Stupak’s amendment appears to have no shot at all in the Senate. It would need 60 votes, and it probably doesn’t even have 50. The one conservative Dem who seemed the most supportive of the measure has since reversed course.
And third, Stupak can talk tough on “Fox & Friends,” and the show’s audience no doubt appreciates it, but he may not be able to back up the bravado. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, argued this morning that when push comes to shove, Stupak won’t be able to kill reform over this one issue.
Moe Lane at Redstate:
I close with this observation: this situation for the Democrats is pretty much entirely due to the decision by House Republicans to oppose the health care rationing bill en masse. They’re doing that because the Congressional Democratic leadership decided to shut out everybody except themselves and various outside lobbyists when it came time to put this monstrosity of a bill together. And because the President didn’t intervene when it became clear that the process was disrupting his narrative, we’re now at the point where the Democratic party has to decide which side of the abortion debate is safer to infuriate.
But don’t feel bad for them: after all, they didn’t learn a blessed thing from their mistakes over the ’stimulus’ and cap-and-trade.
Patricia Murphy at Politics Daily