When the dust settles on the health care battles over affordability credits, taxes and insurance regulations, Democratic leaders will still face the vexing issue of abortion insurance coverage.
A group of Members led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the Catholic church and other organizations opposed to abortion rights are firmly against allowing abortion coverage in new, federally subsidized insurance markets, while a group of abortion-rights supporters is vowing to kill any bill with Stupaks language included. That leaves House leaders in a jam, although serious negotiations on crafting a compromise wont come until the shape of the final bill is better known.
The House, for example, has been pushing a national health insurance exchange instead of the state insurance exchanges in the Senate bill, but that would appear to blow up Sen. Ben Nelsons (D-Neb.) abortion compromise language in that chamber. Nelsons amendment gives states the ability to opt out of allowing insurance plans to offer abortion coverage to women who get federal subsidies.
The Nelson language also requires people to send in separate checks to cover the abortion provisions of their insurance a scheme rejected by Stupak and other abortion-rights foes as insufficient. Its also opposed by some abortion-rights supporters in the House as cumbersome and likely to lead insurers to shy away from offering abortion coverage.
We have to deal with the core issues of the bill first, a House Democratic leadership aide said.
Another aide predicted they would ultimately solve the puzzle, given the magnitude of the issue. Theres too much at stake for millions of Americans, for the party and for the president for us not to get this done, the aide said.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-
chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said she has been in talks with the White House as well as Members on both sides of the issue to try to reach a compromise.
It is a meeting a minute around here, she said.
But DeGette said she still holds out hope for a deal.
We dont want to kill the bill over abortion, she said. We are willing to compromise and we are willing to compromise to current law. We think that is the intention of Bart Stupak and the pro-life guys as well.
But DeGette noted that she has the signatures of 42 Members saying they would oppose a bill with Stupaks language and said there would have to be a meaningful compromise.
I dont think theres any way to get the votes for what I want or what Bart Stupak wants, she said. What I want is a bill that doesnt talk about abortion. What Bart Stupak wants is a bill that goes far beyond current law.
Stupak has denied that, arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions even if the federal government isnt signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.