Thursday March 11, 2010

Stupak: I Don’t Buy Promises for Later Abortion-Funding ‘Fix’ to Health Bill

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, DC, March 11, 2010 ( – Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan told the Associated Press this week that he was “more optimistic than I was a week ago” about including an abortion-funding ban in health care reform – sparking speculation by some that his new-found optimism was merely a prelude to his “caving in” or compromising on the issue.

But the lawmaker has clarified that he does not intend to back down on his standard for the language, nor would he be satisfied if that language came in a later “fix” bill, after the Senate bill makes it to the President’s desk.

In response to those who suggested that Stupak might have been considering throwing in the towel on abortion funding, the congressman told The Weekly Standard Tuesday, “Obviously they don’t know me.”

“If I didn’t” cave in November, he said, “why would I do it now after all the crap I’ve been through?”

Stupak asserted that “there’s no such thing as a compromise” on the abortion-funding language in the bills. Stupak, the author of the Hyde-amendment restriction on abortion funding in the House health care bill, has repeatedly confirmed that he and a cadre of about a dozen pro-life Democrats would vote down the Senate health bill if it did not include the same language.

The Michigan lawmaker acknowledged, however, that it is unclear how such language could be incorporated into the bill at this stage in the game.

Because Democrat leaders hope to avoid subjecting the measure to another vote in the Senate – where the party recently lost its filibuster-proof majority – House Democrats have been pushed to scrape up enough votes in the House to pass the entire Senate bill unamended. Because Democrats are unwilling to amend the legislation, therefore, some have suggested that House lawmakers should simply pass the bill anyway in anticipation of a later “fix” bill that would address their concerns.

Stupak said he didn’t buy the idea.

“If they say ‘we’ll give you a letter saying we’ll take care of this later,’ that’s not acceptable because later never comes,” he said.

“Members don’t have a whole lot of appetite to vote for the Senate bill as a stand alone bill – that’s for sure,” said the Michigan Democrat. “If you’re going to correct these inequities in the Senate bill, you better tie bar it to something. No one wants to vote for a freestanding bill so they can be accused of voting for a special deal for Nebraska on Medicaid.”

Stupak said that Democrats would at least have to “tie-bar” all the fixes together to pass or fail all at the same time. In any case, he said, Democrat leaders have given no clear message on how they propose to pass the fixes. For example, while President Obama has proposed several pages of changes, it is unclear how such changes would apply to what the Senate already voted through.

“[The president’s proposals are] different than what the Senate did,” he said. “So do they take three [measures] and merge it into one and stick it in a bill called reconciliation, or just do the Senate bill as a stand alone? …

“It is so confusing on what the parliamentary procedures are going to be.”

The White House has been pushing Democrat leaders in the House to have that chamber pass the Senate bill by March 18, before President Obama is scheduled to depart on an overseas trip.

Yet according to Democratic aides cited by Politico, a frustrated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to “cool it” on assigning deadlines for the bill – which has already missed countless deadlines over the past year.

See related coverage:

NRLC: Vote for Health Bill ‘a Career-Defining Pro-abortion Vote’


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