Abortion is once again turning out to be a–if not the–major obstacle to passing health care legislation in the House of Representatives. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) says he (and about a dozen other pro-life Democrats) will vote against the Senate bill if his concerns aren’t met, claiming its abortion provisions allow for federal funding of abortions. And those are votes Speaker Nancy Pelosi can’t afford to lose.
Stupak has re-entered negotiations with Democratic leadership, and this evening, emerging from a meeting with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer indicated one possible way forward.“Separate pieces of legislation could be passed that would relate to that,” Hoyer said in response to a question from TPMDC. “That’s a possibility. I talked to Mr. Stupak today, and I’m going to be talking to him next week and he indicated he wanted to have some discussions with people. And I will do that.”
I asked whether abortion remains the biggest sticking point for leadership as they pursue passing comprehensive reform. Hoyer demurred: “There are a number of points that people have concerns about, and we have to discuss them all.”
Stupak has resisted this solution in the past. There aren’t sixty votes in the Senate on just about any abortion related question. But things have changed–because of the political math in the Senate, House Democrats simply can not change the Senate bill’s language. Nor does abortion meet muster under the strict rules of the budget reconciliation process. So Stupak is left with a choice between (potentially? likely?) killing the bill, or figuring out a way to deal with the issue outside of the health care process. And with the Democrats’ signature agenda item–and a year’s worth of work–on the line, everything’s very fluid.