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Rep. Stupak Committed to Blocking Health Reform Over Abortion Coverage, Threatens To Work With GOP

Rep. Stupak Committed to Blocking Health Reform Over Abortion Coverage, Threatens To Work With GOP

October 28, 2009 — In an interview with C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Tuesday, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said he is considering teaming up with Republicans to block House health reform legislation (HR 3200) unless Democratic leaders allow a floor vote on an amendment that would add new restrictions on the use of federal funding for health plans that cover abortion with private dollars, The Hill reports. The House could vote on its reform bill next week. Stupak said there is fundamental disagreement between the two sides on whether health insurance plans that receive federal subsidies should be allowed to provide coverage for abortion services. "We have to have a vote," he said, adding, "I don't know why we have to change that basic principle in our law."

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said there has been little movement on negotiations over the issue. "We have insisted that people be allowed to have their own private dollars provide an abortion when it's medically necessary, but they want to go much further than that," Waxman said.

Stupak said he wants a vote "through a rule, or on the floor, or on a motion to recommit." According to The Hill, a motion to recommit is a parliamentary tool used by the minority in the House to kill legislation. Democrats occasionally vote for such motions, but it is "unusual" for Democrats to work with Republicans on how to best use the maneuver, The Hill reports. Stupak has said that he has the support of about 40 Democrats who will vote against the bill if the abortion coverage language remains unchanged. The Hill reports that 40 Democratic votes would be enough to kill the bill if every Republican votes against it as well (Hooper/Cusack, The Hill, 10/28). According to Stupak, some House members "are an absolute no" if the additional restrictions are not in, while "others, if we have a chance to vote our conscience, we can still vote for the bill" (BNA, 10/28).

Although congressional Democratic leaders have criticized Stupak's efforts, he said he has no intention of backing down. "I'm comfortable with where I'm at," he said, adding, "This is who I am. It's reflective of my district. If it costs me my seat, so be it" (The Hill, 10/28). According to the Detroit Free Press, Stupak's district is in the relatively conservative Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan, making it "unlikely" that his antiabortion stance could cost him his seat. However, Stupak said he is aware that some Democrats in Michigan and Washington, D.C., "are not real happy" about his efforts to block the bill (Bell, Detroit Free Press, 10/27).

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said that the abortion coverage language is "one of a number of issues that's being discussed" as House leaders finalize the bill, adding that it is "an issue that we are trying to work our way through" (The Hill, 10/28).

Health Reform 'Unacceptable' for Catholics, USCCB President Says

Meanwhile, in a meeting with the Wall Street Journal's editorial board on Thursday, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Cardinal Francis George said the five versions of health care reform legislation passed by congressional committees are all "unacceptable" to Catholics because of how they address abortion coverage, the Journal reports. George claimed that President Obama "has made promises" that federal subsidies would not go to any health plan that covers abortion services. He added that "Democrats should keep" Obama's promises.

George also said that the Catholic Church would like to see health care be made available to all people but that it "would be a big mistake" for him to endorse a specific legislative proposal (Freeman, Wall Street Journal, 10/27).