Anti-choice zealot Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) overplayed his hand. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced today that the House Democrats will move forward without a deal on abortion coverage.
Why are they finally telling Stupak to pound sand after endless rounds of negotiations? First off, Pelosi had the strategic advantage of having very little to offer Stupak and his shadowy band of anti-choice Democrats. Second, Stupak's alleged coalition is looking more like a paper tiger every day.
Stupak and his allies falsely claim that the Senate bill would fund abortions. In fact, the Senate has already passed a reform bill with strict restrictions on abortion coverage. At this point, any changes will have to be made through budget reconciliation, which can only be used for matters that bear directly on the federal budget. Regulating private insurers this way has no effect on government's bottom line, so Stupak's demands can't be taken up through reconciliation.
There are some drastic procedural overrides that the Democrats could use to indulge Stupak, but they all depend on the cooperation of all Senate Democrats and at least one Senate Republican. (You need 60 votes to ignore the rules.) It is a tenet of the Republican Party platform that embryo-Americans have full personhood from conception. The thing is, the Republicans care more about killing health care reform than they do about protecting the unborn. All 41 Senate Republicans have already sworn to vote against any further anti-choice tweaks to the bill.
One of the hottest party games in Washington is trying to figure out how many votes Stupak really has. No one's sure, but the smart money says way fewer than 12. One former member of the Stupak brat pack, Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, has already said he'll vote for the bill after all. President Obama and Speaker Pelosi are whipping the House Democrats like crazy. Many of Stupak's allies are seamless garment, social justice Catholics who really want health reform. They know perfectly well that the bill doesn't fund abortions. Representatives like Marcy Kaptur of Ohio will probably hesitate to kill a bill that would cover tens of millions of uninsured Americans over non-existent federal funding for abortion. So far, Kaptur has gone out of her way not to say how she'll vote.
At least the Republican senators put their convictions in writing. Stupak claims to hold sway over 12 votes, but if so, why haven't he and his buddies signed a manifesto?
Photo credit: F. Pamplona, distributed under Creative Commons.