This afternoon, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) a pro-life Democrat who is co-sponsoring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) amendment to prohibit federal funds from being used for abortions or for plans that include abortion services, reiterated that he would not oppose a health reform bill that excludes his amendment. “I believe we can get this issue, this divisive issue correct in this bill. We’re not there yet. I believe we can,” Casey said. “I also believe we must pass health care legislation this month through the Senate and then on from there to get it enacted into law.”
Casey highlighted the bill’s investment in improving women’s health care:
The third thing I think we can agree on is that no matter what happens on this vote, this debate will continue even in the context of this bill, and I believe we have to pass health care legislation this year, and there are all kinds of consumer protections in this bill that will help men and women. Prevention services that are — have never been part of our health care system before. Insurance reforms to protect families. And finally, the kind of security that we’re going to get by passing health care legislation for the American people.
While Democrats seek to table Nelson’s abortion amendment with a simple majority, Congressional staffers are likely developing new language to “get this diverse issue correct in the bill” and introduce stricter accounting requirements for segregating public and private funds. That kind of compromise could satisfy conservative Democrats while still preserving a woman’s right to purchase abortion coverage with private dollars.
During the House debate, for instance, Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) offered a compromise that would have established “clear, strict rules for separating public funds from the premiums of private individuals” and allowed the public option to provide abortion coverage if it hired “a private contractor to pay abortion providers, thus avoiding direct federal payments.”
“If the Nelson amendment fails, I’m happy to work with him on this. If he doesn’t succeed, I’m happy to work with him on something else,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters earlier today.
The Senate just voted to table the Nelson abortion amendment by 54-45. Sens. Conrad, Pryor, Nelson, Casey, Dorgan and Bayh voted for the amendment (against the motion to kill it).