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February 24, 2010

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.


Is there anything that Amy Sullivan does not take as evidence that liberals must be nice to the religious right?

Not sure if I agree with this post, I seem to recall reading a differing interpretation elsewhere in liberal blogland. And a blanket ban on a certain kind of subsidy does seem like an outlay decision.

It seems to me that, once the bill is passed, there will be strong legal grounds to eliminate the abortion ban through the courts. I can't see a justification for denying an perfectly legal, often medically needed procedure especially considering that it's a gender specific procedure.

We'd probably get the most done if the bill is allowed to go through and then challenge the questionable bits later.

Thomas, don't count on it. The Democrats made this mistake a few years ago, when they voted for the D&X ban figuring out the courts would toss it out. Then Gonzales v. Carhart came along and suddenly Harry Reid decried a bill he voted for.

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