Pro-Choice Caucus Livid at Talk of Deal with Stupak on Abortion
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday evening met with a visibly angry Pro-Choice Caucus amid rumors from Democratic aides that the Speaker was working on a last-minute deal with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) to give his abortion language a separate vote.
Leadership aides, including those in the Speaker's office, would not comment, but a senior Democratic aide directly involved in the abortion debate said Pelosi appeared to have agreed to give Stupak a vote on an "enrollment resolution" offered by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a key Stupak ally.
Kaptur's resolution contains the same abortion language that Stupak successfully attached at the 11th hour to the House healthcare bill in November. Were the resolution to pass the House, it would instruct the Senate clerk to change the healthcare bill to reflect Stupak's more restrictive language to prohibit federal dollars from going toward abortion coverage.
Stupak late Friday said that he was still in talks with the Speaker on the possibility of such an enrollment resolution - which he and others have been floating as a possible solution this week.
"There's a proposal out there, and we want to see it in writing and massage it," Stupak said. "We have nothing yet."
Pelosi spoke on the floor with Stupak for 10 minutes immediately before a group of pro-abortion rights Democrats angrily surrounded Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and then headed into the Speaker's office just off the House floor.
Stupak, meanwhile, has scheduled a press conference at 11 a.m. Saturday. "Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll have it for you and can give it to you," he said of the proposal.
Stupak has maintained that he has enough votes to kill the healthcare bill, and has threatened to do so unless his demands that his language be included in the eventual healthcare law are met.
Stupak's threats were real enough in November to force Pelosi to add his language to the House bill at the last minute. That language, which Stupak has said is the only language that upholds the Hyde Amendment, won the votes of 68 Democrats as an amendment to the House bill.
The vote prompted an angry backlash from members of the Pro-Choice Caucus, who vowed to kill any future healthcare bill containing the Stupak language, which they say goes beyond current law and places more restrictions on abortion than already exist.
Leaders of the Pro-Choice Caucus, some 30 minutes after storming into Pelosi's office, renewed that threat.
"This concurrent resolution which Congressman Stupak and several others have filed, from the position of the people who signed my letter back in November, is a non-starter," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a Pro-Choice Caucus co-chairwoman. "We compromised to the concept 'no federal funding for abortion,' which is current law -- we don't like that. And so if Mr. Stupak and a few members, along with the Republicans, decide to use this to take healthcare down, then that loss on healthcare coverage is going to be on their hands."
DeGette said a move allowing the enrollment resolution to go forward would put "somewhere between 40 and 55" pro-abortion rights votes at stake.
That math was also leading to counter-rumors, including from aides of anti-abortion rights Democrats, that Pelosi could not realistically be putting even a dozen votes from the left at stake for the sake of Stupak and his allies.
One of those aides also speculated that even if they won a vote on the enrollment resolution, Stupak, Kaptur and the remaining holdouts would still have a difficult time voting for the reconciliation bill unless there was some guarantee that the Senate could pass it as well.
To that end, one version of the resolution apparently being discussed between Pelosi and Stupak would say that the Senate bill won't be considered as having passed in the House until the Senate sends a message to the House stating that it has also passed the Stupak resolution, according to a knowledgeable Democratic aide.
But that would seem to be a very heavy lift for the Senate -- and possibly even the House -- even under the best of circumstances.
In December, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) offered an amendment to the Senate healthcare bill based on Stupak's language, but 54 senators, including two Republicans -- Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe -- voted against it.
Stupak, in a Wednesday interview with The Hill, predicted that he would be brought back to the negotiating table at the very end.
"They'll call me the night before and say, ‘Hey, we've got to work this out. We don't have the votes,'" he said. "Then we get serious."
In that same interview, though, Stupak said unequivocally that he could live with Senate bill becoming law at the end of the day.
"You know, maybe for me that's the best: I stay true to my principles and beliefs," he said, and "vote no on this bill and then it passes anyways. Maybe for me is the best thing to do."