Health Care Bill May be Delayed After Senate Passage Over Abortion Funding

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Health Care Bill May be Delayed After Senate Passage Over Abortion Funding

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The divide over taxpayer funding of abortions in the congressional health care bill is so great that President Barack Obama plans to delay further consideration of it after the Senate approves the measure this week. Following approval, the next step is for a conference committee to resolve the differences.

Several political issues such as the public option, immigration and abortion are presenting concerns for getting the bill past the next step.

On abortion, Democrats are facing competing interests from three separate factions that threaten to derail House or Senate passage of the government-run health care bill. They each want a different outcome in the conference committee.

One group of pro-abortion House members wants to remove the Stupak amendment and believes the Senate language funding abortion is too weak. A second group of pro-abortion senators supports keeping the Senate language in the bill. And a third group is comprised of pro-life House Democrats who want the Stupak amendment kept in the final bill.

A Politico report today indicates White House officials are conceding that the abortion divide could keep any care bill from moving forward until after Obama’s State of the Union address in late January.

That would be a huge blow to Obama, who has pressured lawmakers to get the health care bill completed by his address.

However, Politico reports that Obama has been assured by top Democrats that House members will eventually accept the Senate language — but that would appear to remove the Stupak amendment and set up a massive battle in the House.

The timetable for Obama is made difficult by the previously-approved Congressional schedule as the House comes back into session after Christmas on January 12 but then Democrats immediately take a party retreat. The Senate is not expected to resume until January 18.

Once Democrats work out a deal on the language of the health care bill, it will take the Congressional Budget Office over a week to deliver the final cost analysis on the bill so both chambers can vote.

The timetable gives pro-life advocates over a month to organize and prepare for the votes in the House and Senate.

Ed Morrissey, a pro-life blogger at HotAir, says he thinks the delay means there are not enough votes to pass the bill right now.

"This tells us that the White House has done some legwork in the House and found that the lower chamber is not going to adopt the Senate version as is," he opines.

Morrissey says other political issues make it so the House will not likely accept the Senate bill in its current form or vice versa.

"These issues will be too tough to overcome without the House reworking the bill. That will either require a conference committee to resolve the two bills or an attempt by Harry Reid to get the Senate to buy a House version (the ‘ping-pong’ strategy), either of which would be subject to cloture votes and unlikely to succeed to a floor vote," he speculates.

Morrissey says a protracted health care debate is bad news for Obama.

"The longer that debate drags, the further Obama drops in the polls, which is why this move only makes sense if the White House sees weeks more futility in the health-care overhaul debate," he says.

It also hurts pro-abortion Democrats, who were hoping to get the bill approved early enough to avoid fallout in the 2010 elections.

"They wanted to close this debate as early as possible in order to allow anger over the unpopular measure to ebb in time for their re-election campaigns," he said. "Unlike last year, Democrats won’t be able to avoid appearing in public and being surrounded by Tea Party protests."

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