Commentary Magazine


Topic: insurance exchange

Stupak Is the Last Man Standing?

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

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