Senate Health Care Bill Will Likely Fund Abortions, Stupak Amdt Would be Killed

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 15, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Health Care Bill Will Likely Fund Abortions, Stupak Amdt Would be Killed

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 15
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Senate is gearing up this week for what will likely be its first battle on a government-run health care bill that is expected to fund abortions. As the first vote comes, analysis from one top pro-life lobbyist makes it clear a Stupak-type amendment has little chance once a vote to allow debate takes place.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had been waiting to unveil his bill until the financial analysis came back and, when it was more expensive than he thought, Reid reworked the bill.

The measure is expected by pro-life groups to contain phony language that appears to ban abortions but won’t. Reid officials have said the Nevada lawmaker is currently polling his caucus in a manner similar to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an attempt to gauge what kind of abortion language to include.

The bill’s introduction, and a first difficult vote requiring 60 votes to allow debate on a government-run health care bill in the Senate, are expected early this week.

Reid needs 60 votes to get approval of the "Motion to Proceed" — expected to receive a vote on Tuesday — and a defeat would be a major step back for the government-run health care bill.

The vote is important because pro-life advocates will not likely be able to ban abortion funding once the debate begins — which makes it appear the best and only pro-life strategy in the Senate is to kill the bill.

Should the bill pass that Motion to Proceed hurdle and the weeks-long process of debating amendments begins, pro-life advocates will face another debate and vote on amendment to strike the abortion funding.

The House battle over the pro-abortion health care bill, while complex, was simpler than the Senate process.

In the House, a large contingent of Democrats with pro-life or mixed voting records on abortion joined Republicans to ban abortion funding with the Stupak amendment, but then voted for the bill itself. That large group of lawmakers doesn’t exist in the upper chamber.

In the Senate, just three Democrats — Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Kent Conrad of North Dakota — are on record so far supporting an abortion funding ban.

Joined by most of the Republican conference, but offset by pro-abortion Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, the combined bipartisan pro-life forces do not appear to have the strength to get to enough votes for a Stupak-type amendment.

And, as National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson tells, the Senate process makes it so 60 votes are needed for a Stupak-type amendment banning abortion funding, rather than the normal majority.

"Of Reid once gets over that hurdle [the motion to proceed], then any senator who wants to amend the bill on the Senate floor will also face a 60-vote threshold. Amendments can be killed — ‘tabled’ — by a simple majority, but it will take 60 votes to adopt any controversial amendment on the floor," he explained.

That virtually guarantees massive abortion funding will be in the Senate version of the health care bill unless Reid introduces the bill with the Stupak amendment attached (and if it survives an expected amendment from abortion advocates to remove it).

"For Senator Ben Nelson, or any other Democrat, to get the House-passed pro-life amendment (the Stupak-Pitts Amendment) into the bill, he must withhold his support from Reid’s Motion to Proceed until and unless Reid himself inserts the Stupak-Pitts Amendment into the bill that Reid is writing," Johnson explains.

"Once Reid has won approval of the Motion to Proceed on this bill, it will be too late to add it," Johnson says.

With two other votes on the Senate floor to stop abortion funding seeing the pro-life side failing to reach a 50-vote majority, obtaining 60 votes for a Stupak-type amendment appears virtually impossible.

As a result, the Senate would then ultimately vote on ending debate on a pro-abortion health care bill and then vote on the bill itself if that first 60-vote hurdle is passed.

The question at that point would be whether those three Democrats seeking a ban on abortion funding would join Republicans, and possibly other Democrats considering other issues or independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, in voting against ending debate or against the bill itself.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says pro-life lawmakers in the Senate would do everything possible to hold up or defeat a bill that funds abortions.

"I think it would be very difficult to pass a bill that, in effect, either directly or indirectly provided tax money to pay for abortions," McConnell said on Fox news Sunday.

The delaying tactic could be one that could ultimately defeat the pro-abortion health care bill if it can push consideration of the measure into the election year.

"There will be a lot of amendments over a lot of weeks," McConnell said. "I mean, the Senate is not the House. You saw in the House three votes and it was over in one day."

"Look, we spent four weeks on a farm bill in the last Congress, eight weeks on an energy bill earlier this decade. This will be on the floor for quite a long time. I think it ought to be on the floor at least as long as it’s been in Harry Reid’s office," he joked.

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