Catholic Bishops Seek Sponsor for Stupak Amendment to Senate Health Care Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 24, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Seek Sponsor for Stupak Amendment to Senate Health Care Bill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 24
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The nation’s Catholic bishops are looking for a Senate sponsor for an amendment that would duplicate the Stupak amendment added to the House version of the health care restructuring bill. The amendment cut off funding for virtually all abortions under the public option and affordability credits.

The House ultimately approved its version of the government-run health care bill but not before adding the Stupak amendment on a lopsided bipartisan vote.

Now, with the Senate having voted for the Motion to Proceed, which allows the chamber to start debate on the bill and potentially hundreds of amendments, the bishops are seeking a sponsor for the amendment.

“We’re talking with any number of senators,” Richard Doerflinger, of the pro-life office at the USCCB, told Politico. “We don’t have a Senate name on the amendment yet.”

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat who voted for a similar amendment to the Senate bill to de-fund abortions that failed in committee, is considered a prospect for putting the amendment forward.

That’s because Casey said over the weekend that the bill, sponsored by Senate leader Harry Reid, needs “more work” to the current language, which allows massive abortion funding.

Doerflinger also told Politico that other amendments, such as the Capps amendment added to the Senate bill (and a precursor to the Stupak amendment in the House) are not acceptable.

“The Stupak amendment is the only language offered so far that actually reflects long-standing current abortion policy instead of violating it,” Doerflinger said.

Doerflinger said the USCCB “would not refuse” to consider other amendments to ban abortion funding but he noted “having the same language approved in both the House and Senate helps to avoid mischief in any future negotiations between the two chambers.”

While some pro-life advocates may want a Democrat to sponsor the amendment in the Senate given the fact that Democrats hold a 60-40 membership advantage in the upper chamber, one Republican has already said he plans to sponsor an amendment to strip the abortion funding from the bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch said on November 17 that he would sponsor on the floor the amendment he tried to get attached to the bill in two different committees — that Casey voted for this past summer.

When asked if his amendment would mirror the Stupak language, Hatch replied, "I think so, I think that’s a fair appraisal."

Regardless of who sponsors the amendment, it will not likely receive the 60 votes needed to be added to the Senate health care bill.

In the Senate, just three Democrats — Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Casey 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 enough votes for a Stupak-type amendment.

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

"If 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 and that pro-life groups will need to focus on killing the bill to stop abortion funding and other concerns.

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