This morning, during an appearance on Good Morning America, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) reaffirmed that he might vote for the Senate health care bill if Democrats pass the Stupak abortion amendment as a separate measure. Stupak said that Democrats have shown a “renewed” interest in tying his amendment to the Senate bill:
STUPAK: George, that’s called an enrollment corrections bill. I presented that to leadership about ten days ago. There’s renewed interest in that piece of legislation that I and a number of us are ready to introduce. It’s prepared. Everybody’s looking at it right now. That’s one way, maybe. But we set the deal with the Senate. You give us a vote in the House. We had a vote in the House. It was overwhelmingly 240-194, to keep public law, no public funding for abortion.
Indeed, Stupak has been promoting this strategy for weeks, telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he would support a separate “tie bar” bill earlier this month. The tie bar approach requires just 51 votes in the Senate and would “tie” the health care bill to Stupak abortion provisions. “It almost goes the same time,” Stupak told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren. “And what the bill really says is, it does not become law unless this other piece of legislation becomes law.”
Obviously, the very fact that Democrats may be negotiating with Stupak illustrates just how pressed Pelosi is for votes, but I wonder if Democrats can’t just tie bar the Senate bill to current law. That is, if Democrats absolutely need to peel off more Stupak votes, why not just vote on the Hyde amendment — which Congress renews annually. It’s less restrictive than the Stupak language and it would relieve the concerns of moderate Democrats who worry that the bill does not explicitly extend current law to community health centers. Democrats probably won’t please Stupak — who is more interested in eliminating abortion coverage from the exchange — but they could secure the votes of some of his supporters and pass health reform.
To be clear, codifying Hyde is a bitter pill to swallow — Hyde is fairly restrictive and progressives don’t want to lose hope of repealing it — but if the alternative is a vote on the Stupak amendment (which basically eliminates abortions from the exchange) or no health care reform at all, it might be something worth pursuing.