Policy-ish

Abortion Weighs On Health Overhaul

Much is being made today of the power of congressional moderates, particularly Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak's vow that he and 11 other colleagues are willing to tank Democrats' health bill unless they get their way and increase restrictions on abortion funding.

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak at a House hearing in February. i i
Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak at a House hearing in February. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)/Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak at a House hearing in February.
Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak at a House hearing in February. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)/Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

"It's accurate to say there are at least 12 of us who voted for health care that have indicated to the speaker and others that unless you change this [abortion] language, we will vote against it," Stupak told MSNBC last night.

But it's too early to declare health care dead, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report tells Shots.

"Can they be persuaded? Maybe.The Democrats in the Senate managed to persuade Ben Nelson," Duffy says of the hold-out Senator who raised concerns about the Senate abortion language and just about everything else in that bill before crying uncle.

We're days and probably weeks away from seeing an actual piece of legislation on which a vote would be required. (If you really want to wonk-out about the torturous budget process known as reconciliation that will likely be used to move a health bill, hear this and check out this chart.)

A vote is "not happening today," says Duffy, "which is good news for Stupak, but maybe not for the Democratic leadership."

But, she acknowledges, anything can happen, and there's tons of time for the interest groups, the president, and the House leaders to maneuver.

"Remember that pre-holiday siege on members offices, the phone calls, the visits, the e-mails? That's going to start again," Duffy says.

Maybe it already has. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who says the health bill is being "rammed through Congress," warned Democrats they'd be defending their efforts going into the midterm elections.

A National Republican Campaign Committee project called Code Red is unleashing robocalls on voters in states represented by moderate Democrats. The mission, says the project Web site:

Using various forms of traditional and direct media, Code Red will put pressure on these lawmakers to answer a simple question — will they support a job-killing government takeover of health care or will they stand with the American people who want Congress to scrap the bill and start over with reforms that will lower costs?

Nothing subtle about that message.

But Democrats are stepping up, too, and won't let go of health without a battle. President Obama held a reception for supporters of the pay-as-you-go budget rules last night — guaranteed to be a group of moderates. And he's slated for a meeting later today with members of the House New Democrat Coalition. He's planning visits around the country soon.

All Things Considered host Melissa Block will speak with Stupak this afternoon.

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