Senate Democrats Will Have to Face Abortion-Health Care Issue After Stupak Vote

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 9, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Democrats Will Have to Face Abortion-Health Care Issue After Stupak Vote

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 9
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Senate Democrats will have to face the issue of abortion funding in health care now that the House has signed off on the Stupak amendment that removes it. The bill the Senate eventually considers that combines the Baucus and Kennedy measures includes abortion funding as did the House version.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted on Monday to the Washington Post that the abortion funding battle is forthcoming.

"The debate in the House highlighted some of these issues that we’re going to have to face here in the Senate, and on this issue in particular, it’s something [Reid] is going to have to talk with his caucus about," Manley said.

The Senate operates with a process that is not as top-down as the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened to prevent a vote on the Stupak amendment until the last minute. As a result, pro-life lawmakers are almost guaranteed a chance to vote on amendments that, to this point, have been killed in Senate committees.

However, unlike in the House, there is less of a guarantee that a Stupak-type amendment can be added to the bill.

The Senate has pro-abortion Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and others who may oppose the amendment which passed with a unanimous Republican in the House.

The Senate also doesn’t have the same percentage of pro-life Democrats — as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska is the only consistent pro-life vote along with Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania who sometimes votes pro-life. On two abortion funding votes cast earlier this year, only Evan Bayh of Indiana joined pro-life lawmakers in voting for amendments against funding.

Snowe voted against a Stupak-type amendment in committee while pro-abortion Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota join Republicans in supporting it.

A Senate floor vote in favor of the Mexico City Policy, to prevent foreign funding of pro-abortion groups, failed on a 60-37 vote and, while a Stupak vote would be closer, there is no guarantee of success.

Machinations on other aspects of the government-run health care bill will impact the abortion debate and final passage of the bill.

Unlike in the House, where liberal lawmakers had stronger support for the public option, there is not support for that component in the Senate and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, has already said he will join Republicans and a couple of Democrats in opposing or filibustering the bill if it is not removed from the Reid bill.

However, removing the public option from the bill jeopardizes its support with more liberal members of the Senate.

Meanwhile, if the Senate approves a bill and it returns from a conference committee with the House version and comes back with a public option added, lawmakers say it will be defeated.

"The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says. "It was a bill written by liberals for liberals."

The Senate bill does open the door to massive abortion funding.

According to National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson, "The bill contains provisions that would send massive federal subsidies directly to both private insurance plans and government-chartered cooperatives that pay for elective abortion."

The bill also "requires that a specific charge must be included in the premiums paid by those who enroll in such subsidized plans, of at least ‘$1 per enrollee, per month,’ which amounts to a surcharge specifically for elective abortions," he said.

And it "provides $6 billion in federal funds for the establishment of health insurance cooperatives, without any limitation on the use of these funds to pay for abortions or to subsidize plans that pay for elective abortions," he continued.

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