The White House and Stupak
Amy Sullivan writes:
The President's proposal has, by virtue of not altering the Senate language on abortion coverage, opted for Ben Nelson's formulation rather than Bart Stupak's stricter standard. The Stupak amendment, you'll remember, was deemed necessary back in November to break the logjam in the House and get enough pro-life Democratic votes to pass health reform.
This post is part of a strange emerging conventional wisdom that it's significant that the White House didn't address abortion in its health care proposal.
The thing is, the White House never had the option of altering the Senate's language on abortion coverage. I mean, the president could have proposed whatever he wanted, but there would have been no way to make that alternate proposal into law without scrapping health reform and starting over.
At this point, any changes to the Senate health bill will have to be made through budget reconciliation. With his proposal, the president is telling the Senate what he wants them to try to pass through reconciliation.
Under the Byrd Rule, budget reconciliation is only for provisions that affect outlays and revenues. The Stupak amendment disqualifies private insurers from receiving subsidies if they offer abortion coverage that customers pay for with their own money. It doesn't materially affect the federal budget. So, there's no way to slip it into the Senate bill through reconciliation.
I don't think the White House wants to change the abortion language in the Senate bill anyway, but it's a moot point.