Senate Battle on Pro-Abortion Health Care Reform Bill Could Start Monday

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 10, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Battle on Pro-Abortion Health Care Reform Bill Could Start Monday

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 10
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Senate could begin consideration of its pro-abortion, government-run health care bill as soon as Monday, once Senate leader Harry Reid gets the financial numbers on the cost of the legislation. The debate sets up another battle over abortion funding as pro-life advocates continue fighting against it.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to finish its analysis of the financial details of the bill by the end of the week or early next week and, when it does, Reid will finally unveil the legislation to the Senate.

Monday could provide the first critical test for the pro-abortion bill as Reid will rile a "motion to proceed" with debate on the legislation and pro-life lawmakers, combined with a handful of moderate Democrats, may vote against it or filibuster it.

If a filibuster ensues, Reid will need 60 votes just to proceed on considering the bill — and this motion gives the pro-life movement a chance to stop the bill outright.

Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said today that “He doesn’t have enough votes to get on the bill with a motion to proceed. And he doesn’t have enough votes to get off the bill with a motion for cloture. So he’s got a big problem.”

That could force Reid to rely on reconciliation to bring the bill forward — a rarely-used process by which the Senate can bring forth a bill under emergency financial rules. Using the process would greatly upset some lawmakers and the public.

Reid and his top lieutenants say they hope to consider the bill and a multitude of amendments, including one to strip the abortion funding from the measure, and they expect final votes by Christmas or the first week of January.

Then, the House and Senate would meet to merge the two pieces of legislation into one — where pro-life advocates expect the abortion funding ban to be removed — and then both the House and Senate will have to sign off on the final version. If that measure is pro-abortion and retains its current rationing and end-of-life problems, pro-life groups will engage in an all-out effort to kill the bill.

On Monday, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Reid “continues to work with the Obama administration to get a bill done by the end of the year.”

But Republican lawmakers predict that that deadline may not happen as every other deadline has been passed because of the complexities of the process and the stances of members on different parts of the bill.

When it comes to abortion in the Senate, Reid already has a promise from one Democrat, pro-life Sen. Ben Nelson, to pursue an amendment like the Stupak one.

“I feel that something like the Stupak amendment should be included in the Senate version. I don’t know that it’s not because I haven’t seen the Senate version,” Nelson said Monday.

Nelson said he met with Reid on Monday and added that if the abortion funding ban is not added, you could be sure I would vote against it,” he said of the bill itself. He added that adding the Stupak language doesn’t mean he will support the bill.

Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, both Democrats, have also said they want abortion funding limits added to the bill, though they may not go as far as Nelson by opposing the measure if they are not added.

“I think all of us have recognized throughout that there are three things” — abortion, illegal immigration and the public option — “that could really bring this down,” said Conrad, according to a Politico report.

“I don’t know that anyone has quite found the right formula yet,” Conrad said about the abortion language.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin admitted that "It’s going to be a major issue, I’m sure."

“The caucus will eventually work its will on this issue,” Durbin said. “I hope that we can find a way around it.”

Sen. Sam Brownback said he expects abortion funding to be a big fight.

“I think it’s important that something like that be in it. There will be a number of us pushing that there not be abortion funding in the bill," he said.

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