Senate Republican Leader: Reconciliation Can’t Stop Health Care Abortion Funding

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

Senate Republican Leader: Reconciliation Can’t Stop Health Care Abortion Funding

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 9
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — As the process of the health care debate moves forward this week, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is reminding colleagues and the media that the reconciliation process will not be able to be used to stop the abortion funding in the Senate health care bill.

That is important because it places the emphasis for the pro-life movement on killing the Senate bill in the House — although some pro-life Democrats are considering the option of a sidebar bill.

In an email received from McConnell’s office this morning, he points to several people who have said reconciliation won’t stop abortion funding.

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who backs abortion but opposes abortion funding, confirmed last week that reconciliation isn’t a solution for pro-life advocates.

"I think changes to abortion would probably not be permitted under reconciliation and the Byrd Rule requirement," he told MSNBC.

McConnell also points to Robert Dove, the former Senate parliamentarian who is considered the preeminent expert on the rules of the Senate.

Dove helped write the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which contains the filibuster-busting provision called "reconciliation" and has presided over several uses of the process.

"In 1995 there was a provision that absolutely disallowed any federal funds for abortion," he told NPR last week.

"The Congressional Budget Office determined that it was going to save money. But it was my view that the provision was not there in order to save money. It was there to implement social policy," Dove explained. "Therefore I ruled that it was not in order and it was stricken. That is a tough rule: to go into the motives of people who have either amendments, or have put provisions into bills."

Also last week, at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also admitted reconciliation can’t solve the abortion funding problem.

Pelosi talked about what a reconciliation bill can do and said abortion funding can’t be touched because it is not related to the budget.

She responded to a question about whether abortion funding would be affected.

"Under the budget resolution you can only take up issues that are central to the budget. None of these issues..are dealt with in the budget," she said, according to The Hill. "Neither of these issues is central to the bill. This is not an immigration bill, this is not an abortion bill."

"In order to be part of the budget bill, it has to be central to the budget….It’s a very strict rule," she admitted.

John McCormack of the Weekly Standard says the notion that reconciliation can’t be used to stop the abortion funding in the Senate bill is important because it means pro-life Democrats in the House who voted for the House version of the health care bill because it contained the Stupak amendment banning abortion funding will likely vote no on the Senate bill when it comes up.

"If Conrad is correct, then the House would have to pass the Senate bill’s taxpayer-funding of abortion provisions, he writes today. "Pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak has said that the abortion issue will cost Pelosi at least 10 of her original 220 ‘yes’ votes for the current proposal."

Under the Senate health care bill that will be the main bill Obama and Democrats push through Congress, there is no ban on abortion funding. While some states can opt out of funding abortions under the plan, taxpayers in other states will be forced to pay for them.

But the bill contains other pro-abortion problems that are concerns for pro-life advocates.

The bill requires that at least one health care plan be promoted across the country that pays for abortions, more abortion funding would come via the affordability credits, and many of the so-called limits on abortion funding in the Senate bill are temporary and could expire or be overturned at a later date.

The Senate health care bill also pays for abortions under the Indian Health Service program.

And it contains the Mikulski amendment that would allow the Obama administration to define abortion as preventative care and force insurance plans to pay for abortions.

Finally, the Senate bill does not contain language needed to offer full conscience protection for pro-life medical workers and facilities.

The new Obama health care plan proposing final changes to the Senate bill so it can move through Congress corrects none of these problems outlined by leading pro-life groups as reasons for pro-life advocates to oppose the government-run health care bill.

And the changes Obama submitted for the Senate bill under reconciliation actually increases the potential abortion funding for Community Health Centers.

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