- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2010

A top House Democrat said Thursday that leaders may not have to change the Senate health care bill’s abortion-related provisions to meet the demands of 12 members who have threatened to walk.

Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Michigan Democrat, has said he and 11 other Democrats who voted for the House bill will oppose the Senate bill unless strong abortion restrictions are added.

Coming up with the 216 votes required for passage of the bill would be difficult without those 12, who Mr. Stupak said believe the bill allows for federal funding of abortions. The issue stalled a vote in the House in November and threatens to prevent passage of a series of changes to the Senate bill.

But Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned whether all 12 are willing to vote against President Obama’s chief legislative priority.

“There are a number of people who share his view who will support this bill,” Mr. Waxman said of Mr. Stupak’s strong position against abortion and federal funding of the procedure.

House Democrats met with White House health care “czar” Nancy-Ann DeParle on Thursday to express their concerns with the direction of the health bill. Lawmakers are reviewing preliminary cost estimates of the bill but declined to release them.

The approximately 100-page reconciliation package is expected to be released within days. Ms. DeParle said Thursday that lawmakers will have about a week to review the proposal, according to several lawmakers in the room.

If Mr. Stupak has 12 votes, abortion could be one of the most significant sticking points in final negotiations.

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, doubts that Mr. Stupak has them.

“They are not solid votes,” she said.

At least one of the 12 reiterated Thursday that he will not vote for the Senate bill unless the abortion restrictions are inserted.

“There’s no promise or guarantee I’m looking for,” said Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Illinois Democrat. “I’m looking for changes to the bill.”

The groups are divided over whether the Senate bill allows for federal funding of abortions. Status quo, as dictated in the Hyde amendment, bans taxpayer funding of the procedure in programs such as Medicaid, except when the life of the mother is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.

Members of the Pro-Choice Caucus say that they don’t like the Senate bill because it requires women who want an insurance policy that covers abortions to pay for the abortion coverage entirely on their own and send two separate checks to cover premiums.

But they say the bill does not authorize federal funding of the procedure. Mr. Stupak and pro-life groups say that the bill does.

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