Conference Committee Members Likely Pro-Abortion, Senate Bill Moving Ahead
by Steven Ertelt
December 28, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — When members of Congress return next month following their Christmas break, the attention in the abortion-health care debate will turn to a House-Senate conference committee. The panel, if it actually meets, will be charged with the task of merging the House and Senate versions of the bill.
The House has already approved a government-run health care measure with the Stupak amendment that stops abortion funding.
The Senate bill contains the Nelson-Reid compromise that allows states to force taxpayers to fund abortions with federal dollars and contains the Mikulski amendment that allows the Obama administration to force insurance companies to cover abortions with taxpayers’ premiums.
The conference committee will have to determine whether it wants to keep the Senate language — potentially frustrating pro-life Democrats in the House who may vote against the bill — or the Stupak amendment, which pro-abortion lawmakers say may prompt them to vote against the bill.
If the process for appointing members of the conference committee follows tradition, the heads of the committees that contributed to the final legislation will be appointed to the panel.
On the Senate side, that means Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa — all abortion advocates — will decide the fate of the abortion language. The House side would also feature pro-abortion stalwarts: Reps. George Miller and Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Charles Rangel of New York.
Also, pro-abortion House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid, who is a shadow of his former pro-life self, will largely direct the conference committee process.
Although it is not necessarily an indication of the direction the conference committee will go with the abortion language, the Senate bill may become the basis of the final health care legislation — if only because the Senate had a much more difficult time getting the 60 votes needed to pass the bill.
"This is very precarious," Dodd acknowledged, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Anybody who thinks this is done hasn’t been around here very long. It’s a delicate, delicate process."
But Dodd said he thinks the likely committee members will be able to finalize a bill that can receive approval from both chambers.
"We have known each other, worked with each other literally for years," Dodd said. "So we come into this with a lot of understanding of each other and a desire to get this done."
Over the weekend it appeared the Senate bill would move ahead, according to several Democrats who appeared on Sunday political talk shows.
"We’re not going to rubber-stamp the Senate bill. On the other hand, we recognize the realities in the Senate," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a top House Democrat, told "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey agreed and said, "Well, I’m sure the conference will yield some changes, but the reality is, having served in the House and its leadership, I understand sometimes its frustrations with the Senate, but if we are going to have a final law, it will look a lot more like the Senate version than the House version."
Van Hollen provided no indication on what abortion language would make the final bill.
"It’s not clear exactly how this will be resolved in the final analysis, but I’m confident that it will be," he said. He acknowledged the "great dispute between the two bodies and among different groups who are looking at this issue."
What is clear is that pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak has said he has at least 10 Democrats and likely one Republican who will change their vote to a no if the abortion funding ban is removed from the bill or if the Senate abortion language is used.
At the end of the day we are going to have something along the lines of my language, he said last week.
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