Democrats Brush Stupak Aside, But Key Hurdles Remain On Road To Health Reform

Several news outlets are reporting that Democrats have decided to abandon their negotiations with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and take the risk that some small number of pro-life Democrats will vote against the Senate bill. Democrats reason that fixing the provision through reconciliation would be impossible and passing a separate bill is unlikely, especially after Stupak rejected an offer to take up abortion after reform.

But the biggest cause for this new push is the realization, on the part of the Democratic leadership, that many moderate pro-life Democrats actually read pages 2069-2078 — which Stupak regularly cites to demonstrate that he is an authority on the subject — and learned that it doesn’t do what Stupak says it does.

Brian Beutler quotes Henry Waxman (D-CA) as saying that the decision to cut off negotiations isn’t final, but likely:

But most members feel that the abortion issue was dealt with in the Senate-passed bill….Ironically, what we have is a situation on abortion which neither side is now particularly happy about and so I don’t now how we’ll resolve it but we’ll keep looking….

We just have to all stay open and keep talking until we see where we end up….

There are many people who share his views who are voting for this bill. They feel strongly about the pro-life position but they feel like the Senate bill encompasses a compromise that they can accept in this legislation and they’re willing to go forward with it. There are some who take a different view and we hope to convince them to join us and they hope to us to make them concessions.

So it sounds like Stupak’s gang members have decided that passing health care reform is, in the words of Mitt Romney, “the ultimate pro-life effort” — one that supersedes Stupak’s goal of striping abortion coverage out of private health insurance.

The abortion issue appears to be solving itself, but Democrats still face significant hurdles to passing the Senate bill in the House. Undecided lawmakers have yet to commit to supporting legislation they have not seen and some members are still asking for major legislative changes. On Thursday, Democrats told the New York Times that “they were not given the text of the latest legislation” and some lawmakers from the Hispanic Caucus are frustrated with the Senate bill’s restrictions against undocumented Americans purchasing coverage and are threatening to vote against health care reform unless changes are made to the bill’s harsh immigration provisions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) won’t know if she has the votes until the last possible moment and there is certainly no guarantee that they will pass it.