Abortion Holding Up Democrats’ Endgame On Health Overhaul
Politico: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "said Tuesday that the abortion fight 'has to be resolved.' The majority leader expressed confidence that the issue would be wrapped up, but he also cautioned reporters that he had not had any formal negotiations with Rep. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who authored the House abortion restrictions. ... 'Congressman Stupak has not reached an agreement on abortion funding in the health care legislation,' his spokeswoman, Michelle Begnoche, said Tuesday. 'Last Thursday, the congressman had meaningful discussions with [Energy and Commerce Committee] Chairman [Henry] Waxman and Majority Leader Hoyer. Congressman Stupak expects further meetings this week and remains optimistic that language can be worked out.'"
"The problem at this point is that supporters of abortion rights, including many of the speaker's closest allies, have voted to oppose any bill that includes Stupak's restrictions. On the flip side, Stupak has said at least 10 colleagues will oppose a bill that doesn't include them. If both claims are true, that would make it almost impossible for party leaders in the House to get the 216 votes they need to pass the measure" (O'Connor, 3/10).
Roll Call: "Leadership aides are skeptical of Stupak's count and believe they can hang on to about half the number that the Michigan Democrat says are in his corner. But already some Democrats have started pushing to punt the abortion debate with promises that the issue will be subject to future floor votes. Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has floated putting off the issue - although to date both sides of the debate have rejected the idea. Under Waxman's idea, the Senate language would stand for now but be subject to future votes in the years before the insurance exchanges take effect" (Dennis and Newmyer, 3/10).
Roll Call in a separate story: "Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), a key supporter of Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) anti-abortion language intended for the health care bill, said Tuesday night that he's satisfied the Senate abortion language prohibits federal funding of abortions and will likely vote for the bill. 'I think the Senate language keeps the purpose of the Hyde amendment,' Kildee told reporters. I'll probably vote for it.' Kildee's conversion undermines the position of Stupak, his fellow Michigan Democrat who has been demanding changes to the Senate bill" (Dennis, 3/9).
NPR interviews Father Thomas Reese of Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center who said that at "the beginning of the health care debate, there was kind of a gentlemen's agreement" about maintaining the status quo pm abortion. He added that many in the church really do want comprehensive health reform, but not at the expense of expanding access to abortion. The original intent of the bill was that it be abortion-neutral, NPR reports. A long-standing federal law has barred the use of federal money in abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and if the mother's life is in danger - the so-called "Hyde Amendment" (Inskeep and Rovner, 3/10).
Meanwhile, MSNBC fact-checks "Stupak on abortion," ask "is Stupak right -- that the Senate bill directly subsidizes abortions? The answer appears to be no" (Murray, 3/9). Stupak's office offered a response, which MSNBC reported in a separate story (Murray, 3/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.