Are Anti-Abortion Democrats Open to a Deal on Health Care?

Rep. Bart Stupak says he'll vote "No" unless changes made to abortion language.

ByHUMA KHAN via via logo
March 19, 2010, 7:22 AM

March 19, 2010— -- Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak says he's open to a deal but will vote "No" on the health care bill unless changes are made to accommodate his more-stringent language that prevents federal funding for abortions.

"There's still no change," Stupak said on "Good Morning America" today of his "No" vote on the health care bill. "My group is holding firm.

"I want to pass health care... but there's a principle that we do not want to cross," Stupak said.

But the Michigan Democrat said he is open to a deal on the abortion language if he can get a firm commitment from the Senate.

"There is renewed interest in that piece of legislation that I and a number of us are ready to introduce. It's prepared, everybody's looking at it right now," Stupak said on "GMA." "That's one way maybe -- but we still have to deal with the Senate."

"A lot of promises are made around this town. You got to lock them down, and there has been no lock-down yet," he said. "We're still negotiating."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., today wouldn't comment on the negotiations. When asked about Stupak's suggestion that there could be another bill to address abortion funding and she said, "I haven't heard any of that."

She said some members of the House "may be" talking about a separate bill with abortion provisions, but the focus right now is to gather the votes for the health care bill.

"This bill is about health care and not about abortion," she told reporters today. "There will be no further changes in the bill."

Another Democrat against the abortion wording in the bill, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, also said Thursday she is open to a separate bill with the House abortion language.

Stupak's amendment, which was part of the House bill but failed in the Senate, limits access to abortions for people who receive federal subsidies and those who purchase insurance through a health insurance exchange, a marketplace in which people could shop for and compare insurance plans.

Stupak's more restrictive anti-abortion language passed the House by a vote of 240-194, but it was defeated in the Senate, and it's the Senate health care bill that House Democrats are now amending.

The language in the Senate health care bill restricts the use of public funds for abortion services. But private insurance plans in the insurance exchange can cover abortion if funds for the procedure are used only from premiums paid by beneficiaries. States have the option of banning coverage in insurance plans brought in insurance marketplaces.

Proponents of Stupak argue that language will not be enough to prevent federal funding from going toward those services. But others, such as President Obama, argue that it maintains current law.

Health Care Debate Heats Up

On Thursday, President Obama again postponed his trip to Australia and Indonesia because the health care vote, which is now likely to take place late Sunday.

The president is reaching out to a number of lawmakers who are undecided about how they will vote. Democratic leaders are only about seven votes away from getting the 216 votes they need to pass the bill in the House, but roughly a dozen Democratic members of Congress have still not declared whether they will support it. Some of these Democrats are either unhappy with the deletion of Stupak's abortion language while other liberal members say the bill doesn't go far enough to protect Americans.

Even Vice President Joe Biden has been constantly working the phones.

"They say, 'Well Joe, look man, I mean, you know, you guys haven't messaged this very well,'" Biden told ABC News' Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview in Durham, N.C., Thursday. "And, 'you know, this thing has gone on so long.'"

Biden said his response to worried lawmakers is simple: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

"I'm telling you, you know, pre-existing [conditions], they're going to be covered. You know we're going to control the insurance companies," the vice president said. "You know people aren't going to lose their health care with their employer like is being advertised."

Biden said once these provisions take effect, and the American people feel the impact, lawmakers who vote "yes" will reap the benefits.

Hours away from a health care vote, the fighting on the House floor has intensified.

"They're going to continue to ram, ram, ram this bill through the Congress," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday.

Democrats were touting a preliminary report from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that the health care bill will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and will reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the same time period.

"The bill is the biggest deficit reduction bill that any member of Congress is going to have the opportunity to vote on," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Thursday.

Even President Obama hailed the bill as the "most significant effort to reduce the deficit since the Balanced Budget Act" of the 1990s.

Today, the president will once again take the health care push to the road by holding a rally in Fairfax, Va., to drum up support for the bill and convince skeptical Democrats that they need to vote "Yes."

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