By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Blocking government funding of abortions, the major compromise in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's healthcare reform bill Saturday night, was a significant victory for antiabortion Republicans who have long sought to identify "pro-life" Democrats. "This vote locks in 64 Democrats on this precise pro-life language," a key GOP adviser says of the vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment.
The amendment bars government funds under the Pelosi healthcare plan for payment for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger. The Senate, now beginning to debate its version of healthcare reform, is expected to see a similar fight over the abortion language, and President Obama this week suggested that he doesn't want the restrictive antiabortion language in the final bill.
Liberal Democrats who opposed the amendment have suggested that they will fight to insert insurance funding for abortions in the final bill during conference, when the House and Senate get together to cobble together a compromise package. However, Pelosi might have difficulty getting enough votes if the 64 Democrats hold their ground. "If the Senate does pass a bill and conference tries to eliminate this antiabortion provision, the 64 Democrats will have to decide do they maintain continuity with their first, principled vote, or do they not," says the Republican adviser.
Antiabortion groups like the National Right to Life Committee heralded the vote on the amendment. That group and other antiabortion activists plan to keep an eye on the upcoming votes to make sure that the 64 Democrats stick to their position.
The 64 Democrats: