By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 18, 2009 ( – Nebraska Democrat Senator Ben Nelson is earning the ire of party leadership for standing by his amendment that would have restored Hyde-amendment restrictions to the senate health bill, and resisting any watered-down compromise measures.  Yet Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), the other Democrat sponsor of the Nelson/Casey/Hatch amendment, has taken a different path since that amendment's defeat: his abortion-funding compromise issued this week (which has been condemned by pro-life groups and Nelson himself) was crafted at the behest of Democrats seeking Nelson's support for the bill, Bloomberg reports.

Unlike the Nelson amendment, pro-life groups who have been briefed on Casey's new compromise measure say it does not prevent government funding of abortion, but employs a funds-segregating scheme similar to those rejected by pro-life leaders during the House health care debate.  Other provisions in Casey's proposal increase an adoption tax credit by $1,000, and allow some individuals to opt-out of the abortion funding in the government-run plan. 

Nelson has already released a statement confirming that the language is “not sufficient.” 

A Bloomberg piece Friday reported that Casey's effort to win Nelson over to weaker abortion language came in cooperation with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been working furiously to secure all 60 Democrat-caucusing votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

While his first attempt fell flat, Casey vowed to “keep trying.”  “I want to be a fountain of ideas on this topic,” he told the New York Times.

Casey, once renowned as a rare pro-life Senate Democrat, has been evasive with reporters questioning how he would vote on the bill without Hyde-amendment restrictions.  Most recently, when if the Catholic senator agreed with the U.S. Bishops' opposition to the Senate bill, Casey did not directly answer.
“The big goal here is to get a health care bill done,” he said, adding that there are many reasons “why the bill should be passed” apart from the abortion issue.

The Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania (Casey's home state) is urging the senator “to end his hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty on this issue.”

“He says he is pro-life and he opposes federal funding for abortion,” said president Michael J. McMonagle.  “He claims that he is 'working on a compromise' to remove the pro-abortion aspects of this bill. Yet, the initial details of his 'compromise' indicate that it is unacceptable to pro-life advocates because it still authorizes the federal government to pay for insurance coverage that includes abortion.”

McMonagle's group has planned rallies in three PA cities Friday as part of a series of events calling on Casey to oppose the abortion-expanding bill, and will hold a candlelight prayer vigil at Sen. Casey's home in Scranton on Dec. 28.

CatholicVote Action has also released an advertisement urging Senator Casey not to allow taxpayer-funded abortion. 

In the House, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said he had been in touch with Sen. Nelson over the matter, and also rejected Casey's language as a “non-starter,” according to ABC News.  Stupak said that he and his band of pro-life House Democrats are “holding tough” for meaningful funding restrictions.  “Our members are holding, so we will not pass if they are putting anything but a version of our language,” he said.

In reference to Democrats opposed to his amendment, Stupak said, “This isn't an argument on merit. This is more an argument on their pride.

“They chose this fight and lost.”

On the other side of the chamber, Republicans continued to engage in a series of stall tactics that they say is their last resort after being entirely shut out of the health care debate.  The party's attempt to filibuster a defence spending bill was finally overturned at 1 a.m. Thursday, after the ailing 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) were called in to scrape by the 60-vote hurdle.  Lieberman, who had to be summoned from his Georgetown synagogue, reportedly only goes to Congress on Saturdays in extreme necessity.

See related coverage:

Updated: Nelson, NRLC, US Bishops Deem New Casey Abortion Compromise 'Unacceptable'

Minority Leader Fumes: No One Has Been Allowed to See Health Care Bill