Nothing looks confirmed at the moment. But the moment House leaders reach agreement with elements of the Stupak bloc is the moment I stop ding whip counts. Because then, health care passes without too much trouble.
And what’s the deal? A future, standalone vote on the Stupak amendment, in the House and the Senate.
At least six anti-abortion-rights Democrats are open to supporting the healthcare bill if they can get a guarantee from the Senate that it will move separate legislation containing the House abortion language, one of those Democratic holdouts said Friday.
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), one of Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) gang of staunch opponents of the Senate abortion language, said they are in discussions with senators and House leaders to secure such a commitment.
“There could be some kind of commitment from the other body to act on this later … to ensure that the Senate language does not remain law,” he said.
(Rahall reveals himself as a member of the Stupak bloc in this exchange.)
This has been rumored in recent days, but Pelosi and her team made the determination that Stupak wouldn’t go for a future promise. Apparently, enough of the bloc would go for it to be determinative. My guess is that Pelosi would try to round up the votes without resorting to this first, and only pull the trigger on a “third bill” if she had to do so.
Maybe she can find the votes. But if Rahall (and in this piece, Kaptur) really are still part of the Stupak bloc, you have to figure Dahlkemper and Ellsworth, and perhaps Carney, are as well. That’s nine Yes-No flippers, and if you add Arcuri and Lynch, there almost certainly aren’t enough No-Yes flippers left on the board (you would need 10 at that point) to counteract that.
Kaptur seemed to be movable in a separate report, and maybe the House leadership will still call the bluff. But they’d have health care reform in the bag by making this deal. At the expense of access to a legal medical procedure for women, of course.
The Nelson amendment isn’t much of an improvement on the Stupak amendment, actually. But the humiliation of a standalone vote in the Senate would be almost unbearable. And that vote already failed in the markup of the Senate bill, so several Democrats would have to flip their vote to ensure passage.
I don’t know why anti-abortion Democrats would need a guarantee, since (especially after the midterms) they could just get a discharge petition and force a vote like this to the floor whenever they wanted. But it is truly remarkable how reproductive choice has become the spotlight of this health care debate; it shows the power of the anti-choice movement, and the relative fecklessness of the pro-choice movement.
UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi in her press conference denied this by saying “There will be no further changes in the bill,” which of course is not what this deal is at all about, if I read it right. It’s about a future vote.