House-Passed Abortion Language Could Stir Up Senate’s Reform Debate
The Washington Post: "The abortion issue had been rumbling within the House Democratic caucus for weeks, but Saturday's votes revealed the depths of the fault lines. The amendment passed with the support of 64 Democrats, roughly a quarter of the party caucus." And with an eye on the Senate and eventual conference committee negotiations, abortion-rights supporters are now pledging to strip the amendment out of the underlying health bill.
Meanwhile, "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is waiting for cost estimates of provisions of the bill he is cobbling together, and he hopes to bring it to the Senate floor before Thanksgiving. The battle over abortion has been more muted in the Senate, but Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman, predicted that would change" (MacGillis, 11/9).
The Associated Press: "Abortion opponents in the Senate want tough restrictions in the health care overhaul bill, similar to the limits passed by the House this past weekend." The issue threatens to shake up "an already shaky Democratic effort to pass a health care bill by year's end." Moderates such as Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., "said Monday it's highly unlikely he would support a bill that doesn't clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to pay for abortions. His spokesman said Nelson is weighing options, including offering an amendment similar to the one passed by the House." Meanwhile, the approach adopted by the House has "angered liberals, some of whom are now threatening to vote against health care legislation if the curbs stay in" (11/9).
Bloomberg: "More than 40 House Democrats signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowing to vote against a final health overhaul measure if it includes abortion restrictions contained in legislation approved Nov. 7, said Representative Diana DeGette." This "threat to vote 'no'" creates added pressure for Democratic leaders who allowed a House vote on the language "after a revolt by anti-abortion Democrats threatened passage of the broader legislation." Bloomberg also reports on statements made by one key Senate moderate vote. "Maine Republican Susan Collins told reporters that the Senate Finance Committee legislation 'did a good job putting up a firewall that would prevent federal funds from going to abortions'" (Litvan and Rowley, 11/9).
The Wall Street Journal: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was pivotal in advancing the House-passed abortion restrictions, "sent a message to churches urging members to contact their senators and ask the Senate to 'correct the serious errors' in Senate versions of the health legislation." The key issue is whether abortion will be covered by health insurance policies sold in the health-insurance exchange established by the reform legislation. "Under the House bill, anyone who receives a new government tax credit to buy health insurance couldn't enroll in an insurance plan that covers abortion." In the Senate Finance Committee bill, consumers who get the tax credit would be able to buy an insurance plan that covers abortion, "but funding for the procedure would come from the portion of premiums paid by the enrollee." Meanwhile, the Senate Health Committee "leaves it up to federal officials to determine whether abortion gets covered in subsidized policies" (Adamy, 11/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.