By Liz Halloran
In their push to pass the Senate's version of health-care legislation on Sunday, House Democratic leaders have picked up a handful of votes once though unattainable: those from members of the "Stupak Coalition," House Democrats who oppose legalized abortion.
The most recent was Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, who late Friday afternoon said his decision was informed by assurances from the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Nuns and "pro-life advocates" that the bill "meets my pro-life principles and upholds the policy of no federal funding for elective abortions."
Stupak coalition members who have already moved to "yes" include James Oberstar of Minnesota, Charlie Wilson of Ohio, and Dale Kildee of Michigan.
And on Friday leaders indicated that they're hoping - maybe with some future guarantees - to persuade as many as five more of the dozen or so coalition members to vote "yes," too.
Leadership would clearly rather hit the 216 magic majority number needed to pass the measure without a separate deal.
But House and Senate leaders, say aides, were continuing to talk Friday about the potential of a separate future bill that would address coalition members' concerns that Senate language doesn't go far enough to limit access to federal funding for abortions.
The Stupak Coalition is named for Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, whose successful amendment to the House health care bill barred recipients of federal health care vouchers from using them to purchase insurance plans that cover legal abortion procedures.
The Senate version being considered Sunday would allow recipients to purchase plans that cover abortion, but requires that the cost specific to abortion be reimbursed.
The separate legislation being negotiated would likely reflect the House language.
Members of the Stupak coalition that still look most in play as potential "yes" votes, if needed, include Jerry Costello of Illinois, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania and Kathleen Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania. Aides say that Dan Lipinski is also still "in play."
Unlikely to be persuaded are Stupak, Steve Driehaus of Ohio, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.