Déjà Vu? Abortion Contretempts Still Threaten Health Bill

March 19, 2010 3:46 pm

Several members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus emerged–very unhappy–from a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday evening. The meeting lasted about half an hour, and most attendees were extremely tight-lipped when they left. But the gist is this: Pelosi is still trying to figure out how to assuage pro-life Democrats, who want the health care bill to contain tighter restrictions on funding abortions, and pro-choice members do not like the options before them.

Pelosi is weighing her option with respect to the remaining pro-life holdouts–led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)–who are threatening to oppose the health care bill over its abortion language. One of the options floated a few weeks ago would’ve given Stupak et al a vote on a stand-alone piece of abortion legislation.But that’s not enough for Stupak–who knows as well as anybody that the Senate can’t round up 60 votes for any abortion legislation, pro or anti. He’s been pushing for a vote on something different, and much more obscure: what’s known as an enrollment corrections bill. The details are complicated, but basically, it’s a rarely used procedural technique that would allow the House and Senate to amend the Senate bill after it’s passed both houses, but before it’s signed into law. Stupak says it only requires 51 votes in the Senate. He also implied that passage of health care reform could be made contingent on the adoption of new, stricter abortion language.

Pelosi’s gambit may be to give Stupak his vote to get him on board, all the while knowing it won’t pass the House or the Senate. But that’s a risk pro-choice members aren’t prepared to see their leadership take.

No decisions have been made, but pro-choice Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) still insists that there are more than enough pro-choice members opposed to Stupak’s abortion language to kill the bill if Stupak gets his way–and that, she says, will be Stupak’s cross to bear.

Earlier this week, he signaled to The Hill that he didn’t really want to kill the bill.

“You know, maybe for me that’s the best: I stay true to my principles and beliefs,” he said, “vote no on this bill and then it passes anyways. Maybe for me is the best thing to do.”

But he didn’t relent.

It’s unclear how many pro-life votes Stupak controls, but seemingly enough that Pelosi isn’t willing to flick him aside.

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