Dems Face Tough Choice – Abortion Rights or Health Reform?

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Nov 7, 2009 2:33pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

President Obama lobbied House Democrats behind closed doors on Capitol Hill during a rare weekend session of Congress, trying to help leaders cobble together enough votes to pass a sweeping health reform bill through the House of Representatives. Democratic leaders emerged from the meeting confident that they would pass the bill later Saturday, three years from the day they retook control of Congress. “We are making history with our vote and progress for the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in front of TV cameras. The Democratic leaders said today’s vote on a health reform bill would be among the most important that any member would cast. But  in order to pass a reform bill through the House and move toward providing health coverage for millions of Americans, the liberal base of the party, particularly those who support abortion rights, are faced with making deep concessions to bring Democrats who oppose abortion rights on-board. An amendment to the bill by Rep. Bart Stupak will get a vote later today. It would bar insurance coverage of abortions not only for people insured by a government-run insurance plan envisioned by the bill, but also by private companies that participate in a new insurance exchange that is envisioned as a way to pool individuals and drive down health care costs. Pelosi, who supports abortion rights and has been described as “furious” about having to allow a vote on the Stupak amendment, denied to reporters that she was frustrated. “I was part of recommending that we allow it to the floor for amendment ,” she said. But she did not talk about her feelings on the amendment. And President Obama ignored shouted questions from reporters after the meeting on whether he would sign a bill that restricted abortion rights. Stupak was able to get a vote on the amendment because he claims to have 40 Democrats ready to oppose the leaders’ health reform bill without additional assurances that not only keep federal dollars from paying for abortions but also to keep federal dollars from going to plans that provide abortions. Stupak said people with insurance offered through the exchange would have to either pay out of pocket for an abortion or obtain supplemental coverage. It is unclear if his amendment has the votes to pass, although Stupak told reporters today (off camera) he expects it to. “I believe the Stupak amendment will pass and therefore I would support the bill,” he said. But asked if he would still support the health reform bill if his amendment fails, he said, “I haven’t decided. That’s something I’m struggling with.” Stupak praised Pelosi for allowing the vote, saying Democrats are a “rambunctious caucus” and “the speaker is getting it from both sides on this.” The Democrats’ main vote counter, Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, did not say if he thought Stupak’s amendment would pass. “We’ll see,” Clyburn said.

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