Harry Reid kills health care reform

Harry Reid kills health care reform November 18, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled his health care plan today, and according to Politico, it incorporates the language of the Capps Amendment on federal funding of abortion.

The bill grants the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to determine whether federal money is being used to fund abortions under the public plans, but doesn’t ban those plans from offering the coverage. Reid’s bill also explicitly requires insurers to separate private premiums from any public subsidies used to pay for that coverage to assure taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund the procedure – which, as we all know by now, is prohibited under the Hyde Amendment[…]the bill also requires each exchange to offer one plan that provides abortion coverage and one that doesn’t – a major sticking point for critics of the original House language. California Rep. Lois Capps, who tried to hatch a compromise on the Energy and Commerce Committee, commended Reid’s language, saying, “I am pleased that the Senate has adopted a reasonable, common ground approach on this difficult question. It appears that their approach closely mirrors my language which was originally included in the House bill.”

Various sources have indicated that the only two pro-life Democrats in the Senate, Ben Nelson and Bob Casey, are willing to accept this compromise.

For the moment, let’s put aside the question of whether or not the Capps language actually prohibits federal funding of abortion. That’s an argument that’s been had many times over on this blog, and it involves issues such as the fungibility of money that are not easily resolved (though it is clear that this would the first time that federal law would mandate private coverage of abortion). Instead, let’s look at things from a purely political standpoint.

Let’s say Nelson and Casey accept this compromise, and it eventually passes as part of the Senate bill. Given the backlash against the Stupak Amendment, the final conference report will very likely incorporate the Senate language on abortion. What will happen when the entire bill goes to the House for final approval? The entire bill will be voted down. Even with the Stupak Amendment, the original bill passed the House by a vote of 220-215. If the final bill contains the Capps language that was explicitly rejected by the USCCB and 40 or so House Democrats (most of whom looked to the USCCB for the final judgment on what is and is not acceptable), it will not pass, pure and simple. They will lose Representative Cao, the only Republican who voted for the original bill. At that point, only 2 more Democrats will need to defect. That is almost certain to happen. By capitulating to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, the Democrats have signed the death warrant on health care reform. And they must know it, too; it’s simple math, not doctorate-level political science.

Of course, not all of the blame belongs to Harry Reid. Plenty of blame belongs to those so-called “progressives” in the House and Senate who vowed to sacrifice health care reform if there was even the possibility (remote, even under Stupak) that it might cause some women to choose not to have their unborn children killed. Plenty of blame belongs to President Obama, who passed up a perfect opportunity to make good on all that wonderful talk of “common ground” and instead chose to condemn the Stupak Amendment.

But finger-pointing is ultimately futile. The bottom line is this: the Democrats have eliminated any doubt as to their true priorities and their true loyalties. They could have had stricter regulation of insurance companies. They could have had subsidies. They could even have had some form of a public option. And of course they could have made the Republicans irrelevant, and gained a huge legislative victory going into the 2010 midterms. They could have had everything  that they wanted (and quite a bit of what the American people need) if they had only had the political courage to make one little concession to the pro-life movement. But that pissed off NARAL, and so they threw it all away. Pathetic. Anathema sit!

UPDATE

According to The Hill, Senator Nelson has now said that Reid’s language is unacceptable:

“We have looked at the language,” Nelson told The Hill. “That language is not language that I would prefer. I think you need to have it eminently clear that no dollars that are federal tax dollars, directly or indirectly, are used to pay for abortions and it needs to be totally clear. [It’s] not clear enough, I don’t think,” Nelson said.

Given that Nelson (unlike Bob Casey) is a key swing vote, there may be hope yet.

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