White House Executive Order On Abortion Funding Clears Path For Health Reform’s House Passage
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and other anti-abortion Democrats, will support their party's health bill, presumably giving Democrats the votes to pass the overhaul package.
CNN "Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, announces that he, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House have reached an agreement that protects 'the sanctity of life in health care reform.'"
Roll Call: "'I'm pleased to announce we have an agreement,' Stupak said in a press conference, backed by other holdouts. The announcement came as the White House said President Barack Obama would issue an executive order ensuring no taxpayer funds are used to fund abortions" (Newmyer, 3/21).
ABC News: "Anti-abortion Democrats had been hesitant to commit their support unless a deal was struck but the executive order guarantees that the House Democratic leadership will have enough votes to pass the health care legislation. 'We're well past 216,' Stupak told reporters, referring to the minimum number of votes House Democrats need to pass the bill" (Khan and Karl, 3/21).
USA Today: "White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said President Obama will issue an executive order after the health care bill passes that reaffirms "longstanding restrictions" banning the use of federal funds on abortion. Those restrictions are known as the Hyde amendment, named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who wrote the original ban" (Carnia, 3/21).
The Christian Science Monitor: "The deal means the bill will almost certainly be passed later tonight. Obama is so confident of a positive outcome that he announced that he would address the American people after the vote. Since the Senate has already passed the bill, it is possible that Obama could sign the health care bill into law tonight. If he does not, he would likely sign it Monday. Once the bill is signed, many provisions will take years to kick in (Sappenfield, 3/21).
Time: "Critics of the deal say that an Executive Order can be rescinded at any time at the pleasure of the President or by an act of Congress. Stupak, though, said that the leaders were close to reaching 216 without him and he felt this was the best deal his group could get." House Democratic sources say Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., was integral to "bringing Stupak around" (Small, 3/21).
CBS News Political Hotsheet: "The National Organization for women released a statement saying it was 'incensed' by the White House move." Meanwhile, some GOP lawmakers who oppose abortion rights held a late afternoon press conference "saying the executive order is 'not worth the paper it is printed on' because it can be rescinded. One called President Obama 'the most pro-abortion president in history.' They called for Stupak and the lawmakers other anti-abortion rights lawmakers who have vowed to back the bill to change their minds" (Montopoli, 3/21).
The New York Times: Stupak described the executive order "as a significant guarantee. ... But supporters of abortion rights said it merely reaffirmed what was in the bill" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 3/21).
Newsweek: "The National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, Family Research Council, and Susan B. Anthony List have all come out against the executive order strategy. Three of Stupak's anti-abortion rights colleagues, Dan Lipinski, Jerry Costello, and Gene Taylor, still oppose the bill, according to the National Review Online." But Time points out that, though the anti-abortion rights organizations are unhappy with this agreement, it "is not exactly a win for supporters of abortion rights. The bill's requirement to strictly segregate fund provides a disincentive for insurers to cover abortion" (Kliff, 3/21).
CQ: "Some Republicans and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops quickly decried the agreement, saying it would not have the same force as a ban written into law. ... Stupak acknowledged he would have preferred strong statutory language to an executive order. But he said such language could not get through the Senate." Meanwhile, CQ also reports that negotiations regarding the pending executive order's wording "stretched on for most of the day. Abortion-rights supporters pushed for changes to an early draft but agreed to support the final version, so long as it did not go beyond current law in restricting federal funding of abortion services or banning discrimination against health care providers who object to the procedure" (Benson and Ota, 3/21).
The Hill: Though the abortion provision agreement appears in place, Democrats are still worried "about holding their members together" when they face a GOP procedural motion that could revive political questions. Stupak "said House leaders are specifically concerned about a Republican motion to recommit that would contain only language on abortion that Stupak originally had wanted to include in the Senate bill." This anxiety is rooted in "the fear of GOP attack ads painting Democrats who vote against a motion to recommit that includes Stupak's favored language on abortion as 'flip-floppers' because "[s]ixty-eight Democrats voted for Stupak's language in a November vote" (Allen, 3/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.