Pro-Life Dems Start Breaking In Pelosi’s Direction

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This is the week that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) will be forced to show his cards and reveal whether he actually has the votes (and the will) to kill health care reform.

By all appearances, House leadership has given up on attempts to reach an accord with Stupak, and other pro-life Democrats who disapprove of the Senate bill’s abortion language. Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others hope that most of them will come to their senses (perhaps after a bit of arm-twisting and pressure from the White House) and vote for the bill.

Stupak himself has acknowledged that Pelosi has probably pulled a couple Democrats away from his group. “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us,” Stupak told the conservative magazine National Review last week. “At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve.”And, indeed, press reports indicate that they have. Pro-life Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) told the Duluth News Tribune he’s prepared to vote for the bill. And last week, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI)–a pro-life Democrat who may or may not have been one of the Stupak dozen–told reporters he’ll also probably vote for reform.

That may seem promising for Pelosi at a glance, but Oberstar and Kildee were among the easiest members of the dozen for leaders to win over. They’ll also need others still on the fence–members like Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Jerry Costello (D-IL), and Senate hopeful Brad Ellsworth (D-IN)–to hop on to their side. Indeed, all members of the Stupak crew voted yes on the House health care bill back in November. Every member that sticks to his guns must be made up for by converting a different Democrat who voted “no” back in the fall. And Stupak himself is not budging–at least not yet.

“I’m telling the others to hold firm, and we’ll meet next week, but I’m disappointed in my colleagues who said they’d be with us and now they’re not,” Stupak told National Review.

Then again, the Catholic Health Association broke with the Conference of Catholic Bishops and endorsed the Senate health care bill despite it’s abortion language. And House Majority Whip James Clyburn predicted Stupak himself would ultimately cave and vote for reform. We’ll be keeping an eye on this dynamic all week as we approach the final vote on health care reform.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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