Senators on Tuesday voted 54-45 against Sen. Ben Nelsons (D-Neb.) amendment to add strong anti-abortion language to the chambers health care reform package, creating another problem for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as he seeks to put together 60 votes to end debate on the bill and pass it by Christmas.
The amendment, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, would have explicitly prohibited health care reform from making federal funds available for abortions, and Nelson has said he will not vote to end debate on the overhaul if such language is not included. Seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the amendment, with two Republicans voting against the proposal.
Reid, who is anti-abortion, voted to table the amendment, describing it as a distraction that does not belong in the health care debate. The amendment is similar to language attached to the House bill by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).
We have to keep moving toward the finish line. We cannot be distracted, Reid said in floor remarks before the vote.
Republicans voting to table the amendment included Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine. Democrats supporting the measure included Nelson and Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, both of North Dakota.
It makes it harder to be supportive of the health care bill, Nelson said after his amendment failed. Well have to see if they can make it easier, he added.