Democrats Still Face Roadblocks To Health Reform: Abortion, Immigration
Though House leaders say they'd like a health reform bill vote by Friday, some Democrats are threatening to block its passage over the issue of abortion.
The Washington Post: "House leaders were still negotiating Monday with the bloc of Democrats concerned about abortion provisions in the legislation, saying that they could lead to public funding of the procedure." Rep. Bart Stupak says he has 40 Democrats who could vote with him to oppose the reform bill if abortion language doesn't change. The issue centers around federal subsidies for people who cannot afford health care coverage themselves and a government-run public plan. "Under a 1976 law, federal funds are generally barred from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or to ensure the life of the mother" (Bacon, 11/3).
NPR: "What lawmakers decided instead was to try to craft what they called abortion-neutral language. In other words, they tried to freeze in place the status quo. Currently, the federal government doesn't pay for abortion in most cases, but many, if not most, private insurance plans do." Backers of the current proposal say "the federal government would be prohibited from directly funding abortion and that money for private insurance subsidies would have to be kept separate if it's going to be used to cover abortion."
NPR notes that the abortion issue is a sticky one for the Catholic Church, "where a long-standing opposition to abortion is running headlong into the church's equally long-standing support for a comprehensive health overhaul" (Rovner, 11/3).
CongressDaily reports that Democrats are close to finalizing a compromise on the issue: "Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has been working on the abortion compromise with Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind. At a Caucus meeting Monday night, Ellsworth circulated revised language to strengthen the outline drafted by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., without writing into law the Hyde Amendment's prohibition on using federal funds for abortion" (Hunt and House, 11/3).
The Associated Press reports that abortion is one of two "tough issues" in the debate. The other: should illegal immigrants should be allowed to shop for insurance inside new insurance exchanges? "Some lawmakers say that even if they use their own money to buy private plans they would be getting a benefit from the federally established exchange. The White House does not want illegal immigrants to access the exchange, and the Senate bill would keep them out" (Werner, 11/3).
The Wall Street Journal: "While those immigrants wouldn't have access to government subsidies to buy insurance, the [House] bill leaves open the possibility that they could participate in the public health-insurance plan if they paid the premiums out of their own pockets" (Adamy, 11/3).