Conrad: Health Care Reform Can’t Pass Without Abortion Restriction
On the eve of the Senate debate over health care reform, a leading Democratic moderate predicted Sunday that reform legislation won’t pass if it doesn’t include a controversial measure to restrict abortion funding.“What is clear is that for this bill to be successful, there can be no taxpayer funding for abortion,— Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union.—Conrad said he did not know whether the Senate would ultimately adopt the restrictive language that the House passed last week, which dictated that any new government-funded health insurance option cannot pay for abortions. But he said that some kind of abortion restriction is necessary for a bill to get through Congress.The Senate is expected to begin debating health care reform this week, and abortion is just one of the controversial measures that could dominate the discussion.Appearing on “State of the Union— Sunday, top White House adviser David Axelrod refused to say whether President Barack Obama would veto a health care bill with an anti-abortion provision in it. He said the more controversial issues such as abortion, coverage for illegal immigrants and the implementation of a public option “will be worked through— as Congress continues deliberating.But Axelrod implied that Obama, a supporter of abortion rights, is no fan of the language adopted in the House bill.“The president has said repeatedly that he doesn’t believe the bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion,— Axelrod said.While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has pressed his colleagues to pass a health care reform measure quickly, there is no timetable for getting a bill through, and it remains to be seen when reform legislation will hit Obama’s desk.Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Members should have adequate time to read the bill before taking a vote on whether to proceed with consideration of the measure.However, he sidestepped questions on whether the Democrats will have the 60 votes needed to proceed with debate.He said that when the Senate does begin to debate the bill, “there will be a lot of amendments.— McConnell noted that it took the Senate four weeks to debate and pass the farm bill and that Reid has had the bill in his possession for six weeks. “I think we ought to have at least as much time for the other 99 Senators and the American people to take as much time as Majority Leader Reid had,— he said. McConnell also said he supported a provision to bar any federal funding for abortion.Meanwhile, on CNN, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, fretted over the price tag of any health care reform package, warning that it will contribute to budget deficits that are already “spiraling— out of control.“We’re headed toward third-class status already,— he said.Conrad said he and Gregg are pushing to create a Congressional commission to examine the budget deficit and make recommendations for curtailing federal spending.