Senate Rejects Abortion Amendment, Sparking More Challenges
The Hill: "The Senate voted against strengthening restrictions for federal funding of abortion Tuesday evening, a development that could imperil Democrats' efforts to pass an underlying healthcare reform bill. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who offered the amendment, had indicated that he could support a Republican filibuster of the healthcare reform bill if the abortion language were not added to it." Senators voted 54-45 to table the measure. Six Democrats voted with Nelson to support the amendment, but they - perhaps unlike Nelson - "are not expected to oppose the healthcare bill as a result of the amendment's failing" (Young, 12/8).
NPR: "The amendment, offered by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), would have made the Senate bill's abortion language nearly identical to that adopted by the House last month. Nelson insisted there was nothing complicated about his plan. 'Our amendment only ensures that where taxpayer money enters the picture, people are not required to pay for other people's abortions,' he said. ... But opponents of Nelson's amendment said it would go much further ... 'What this amendment would do, as I read it, is to prohibit any health insurance plan that accepts a single government subsidy or dollar from providing coverage for any abortion, no matter how necessary that procedure might be for a woman's health, even if she pays for the coverage herself,' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)" (Rovner, 12/8).
The Associated Press reports that Reid urged Democrats to reject the amendment in a speech on the Senate floor, though he opposes abortion himself. Reid "recognized the threat Nelson's amendment posed to the overall bill to expand health coverage to some 30 million uninsured Americans. ... 'This is a health care bill. It's not an abortion bill,' Reid said, carefully reading a prepared speech on the Senate floor. 'We can't afford to miss the big picture'" (Kellman, 12/8).
Roll Call: "'It makes it harder to be supportive' of the health care bill, Nelson said after his amendment was defeated. He added, 'We'll have to see if they can make it easier.'" Nelson said that "losing his abortion amendment 'could' be the determinative factor" in terms of how he votes for the sweeping health bill (Pierce, 12/9).
The Christian Science Monitor: If Nelson now decides not to vote with the Democratic caucus, "Democrats will have to find a Republican to join them (perhaps one of Maine's pro-abortion-rights moderates), which is no small task. But it's also possible that Nelson could sign on to a compromise over abortion. Earlier on Tuesday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid told reporters that he would work with Nelson on language the Nebraskan would find acceptable" (Feldman, 12/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.