Conservatives, Abortion Advocates React to Plan to Bypass Conference Committee

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 4, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Conservatives, Abortion Advocates React to Plan to Bypass Conference Committee

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 4
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Conservative activists and abortion advocates in Congress are reacting to the news today that Democrats plan to avoid a formal conference committee on the pro-abortion health care bill. Doing so makes it so the Democrats in the Senate can avoid some procedural votes that could halt the bill.

Writing at HotAir, conservative columnist Ed Morrissey says abandoning the conference committee process allows Democrats to work on combining the House and Senate versions of the bill in secret.

"The idea is to bypass the public hearings that a conference committee could generate, as well as to exclude Republicans from representation at the talks. While the latter is completely predictable — after all, only a couple of Republicans were ever consulted on ObamaCare, and only to get past a filibuster vote — the former violates pledges made by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama during the last two elections," he explained.

"Given the bill’s increasing unpopularity, it doesn’t surprise that Democrats want to hide themselves while trying to get it out of Congress. However, that kind of approach will not build support for ObamaCare," Morrissey continued.

"It will undermine whatever support it has left except as a purely partisan exercise — which explains why its support among likely voters closely mirrors the percentage of Democrats among that sample," he added.

The important factor in the process is that the informal or closed-door conference process will not get the Senate out of needing 60 votes to overcome a filibuster of the final legislature.

"While ping-pong eliminates some procedural hurdles in the Senate, such as conferee selection, it won’t avoid the debate processes, including another cloture vote to get the bill on the floor and to get it to a final vote," Morrissey writes.

That means the final version of the bill is going to have to look a lot like the Senate version, which contains abortion funding.

That upsets House abortion advocates who are opposing the informal conference committee because they say the Senate language doesn’t go far enough.

In a statement, Rep Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, criticized the scheme and complained he hadn’t even been consulted yet.

“I am disappointed that there will be no formal conference process by which various constituencies can impact the discussion. I have not been approached about my concerns with the Senate bill, and I will be raising those at the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday," he said.

"I and other progressives saw a conference as a means to improve the bill and have a real debate, and now with this behind-the-scenes approach, we’re concerned even more," he added.

Despite their grumbling, House abortion advocates are expected to go along with the Senate bill.

But, pro-life advocates like Bart Stupak may not and he still leads a group of 10-12 lawmakers who backed the original House bill but said they will vote against a final bill if the Stupak amendment doesn’t remain.

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