Nelson Rejects "Compromise" on Abortion Funding in Senate Health Care Bill
by Steven Ertelt
December 17, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Senator Ben Nelson, who is quickly becoming the must-get 60th vote for Democrats to pass their pro-abortion health care bill in the Senate, is rejecting a proposed compromise aimed at attracting his vote. Sen. Bob Casey drafted the compromise, which has already been criticized by pro-life groups.
Casey’s compromise, reportedly worked out with the Obama administration and pro-abortion Sen. Barbara Boxer, calls for funding abortions but allowing pro-life advocates to opt out of funding them.
The idea puts the onus on the backs of pro-life advocates to follow through on leaving the health care program’s abortion funding component.
It will still leave the federal government using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions — an idea Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, strongly opposes. As a result, he rejected the Casey compromise and says he is still a no vote on the bill and supportive of the filibuster.
Nelson told KLIN radio in Lincoln, Nebraska on Thursday that the language does not satisfy his concerns about abortion funding.
"Without further modifications, it isn’t sufficient," he said. "There’s a lot of improvement on the legislation but the basic question on funding for abortion hasn’t been answered yet."
“This is not an issue where you can split the difference. That’s what makes it so challenging," he said earlier in the day.
Nelson also told the radio station abortion is not the only concern keeping him from supporting the bill and voting for cloture and he doesn’t believe the Senate will be able to approve the bill by Christmas.
Even if the abortion funding issue is corrected properly, "that is not enough" to get him to back the bill, he said.
"If it’s not at the point where I think it needs to be with the improvements that I’m pushing — and they’ve made a lot of them — then I will not vote for cloture on the motion to end debate," Nelson told KLIN.
Nelson also informed the station about his conversations with President Barack Obama and said they have not talked about abortion.
"He knows that is a personal matter and a matter of principle and we are trying to work through it," Nelson said. "What he has pointed out is there are consequences of not doing something. And that is absolutely correct."
Late Wednesday, LifeNews.com reported that three pro-life groups informed about the Casey compromise rejected it as not really stopping abortion funding under the health care bill.
National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson said the language is "unacceptable."
"This is far cry from the Stupak Amendment," Johnson said in an email delivered to news outlets.
"This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable," he added.
The proposal apparently has an opt-out clause that would allow taxpayers who object to their premiums and tax money used to pay for abortions to leave the program.
"It is particularly offensive that the proposal apparently would make it the default position for the federal government to subsidize plans that cover abortion on demand, and then permit individual citizens to apply for conscientious objector status," he said.
Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin also chimed in on the preliminary language.
“From what we know, without seeing the actual language, it in no way resembles the Stupak language and still allows federal subsidies for plans that cover abortion on demand, which is entirely unacceptable for Nebraska Right to Life and thousands of Nebraskans who oppose public funding of elective abortion,” Schmit-Albin said.
The proposal also drew a response from Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who described the abortion language as "a mandate for taxpayers to fund the procedure."
He told LifeNews.com the Casey language "looks a lot like the other failed amendments that shuffle money around but still use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion."
Nelson was the sponsor of an amendment to gut the abortion funding under the legislation, but it was defeated. He has repeatedly said he would oppose the bill and support a filibuster of it unless abortion funding was truly stopped.
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