Congressman Says He Now Has ‘About 40 Likeminded Democrats’ Who Will Vote to Kill Health Bill if He Doesn’t Get Floor Vote on Pro-Life Amendment

October 23, 2009 - 3:27 PM
Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) told CNSNews.com yesterday that he has organized a group of "about 40 likeminded Democrats" who will vote to kill the health-care bill if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) does not allow a floor vote on his amendment to prohibit federal funds from going to insurance plans that cover abortion.
(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) told CNSNews.com yesterday that he has organized a group of “about 40 likeminded Democrats” who will vote to kill the health-care bill if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) does not allow a floor vote on his amendment to prohibit federal funds from going to insurance plans that cover abortion.

Under Stupak’s plan, the approximately 40 Democrats in his camp would join with all House Republicans in voting to defeat the special House “rule” that would set the terms for debating and amending the health-care bill on the House floor when it is brought up for a final vote. If a majority of the House does not first vote to approve this rule, the health-care bill itself cannot be brought to the floor.

“We will try to—we, there’s about 40 likeminded Democrats like myself—we’ll try to take down the rule,” Stupak told CNSNews.com. “If all 40 of us vote in a bloc against the rule—because we think the Republicans will join us—we can defeat the rule. The magic number is 218. If we can have 218 votes against the rule, we win.”



“If you hold all 40 of your guys, how many votes do you have?” asked CNSNews.com.
 
“About 220,” said Stupak.
 
“So, you’ve got a two-vote margin there?” asked CNSNews.com
 
“Correct,” said Stupak.

If Stupak’s bloc of Democrats holds together against a rule, Stupak said, “They cannot bring the bill to the floor.”
 
Stupak’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 28 to 30 in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, when that committee was drafting its version of the health-care bill. Stupak’s serves on the committee and is chairman of its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stupak said that House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) has told him there is “no way” her committee will write a rule that allows a floor vote on his amendment.  The Democratic majority on the Rules Committee, Stupak said, acts on the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The health care bill approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee creates health insurance “exchanges” in each state. These “exchanges” would sell government-approved health insurance plans. The bill would also provide federal subsidies to people making up to 400 percent of the poverty level to use when buying insurance plans in the exchange.
 
The committee approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D.-Calif.) that would require that there be at least one health care plan in each exchange that covers abortions. People would be able to buy these abortion-covering insurance plans with federal subsidies, although they would also be required to pay an extra premium of at least $1 to theoretically pay for the abortion part of their coverage.  Stupak and other pro-lifers—including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops--argue that money is fungible and that any federal funds going to an insurance plan that covers abortions is in fact a federal subsidy of abortion. 

Stupak’s amendment--which mirrors the language of the Hyde amendment that is incorporated each year into various appropriations bills including the Health and Human Services appropriation--would prohibit federal funds from paying for any part of a health plan that covers abortions.
 
Stupak told CNSNews.com that although he has about 40 votes now to kill the rule for the health-care bill if Speaker Pelosi does not allow a floor vote on his amendment, he said that situation could change when the rule is brought to the floor and the voting on it actually takes place.
 
When the vote is going on, Stupak said, the Democratic leadership will “twist arms” and try to persuade the 40 would-be defectors to fall back in line with the party.

There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The Democrats hold 256 of these seats, the Republicans hold 177, and there are two vacancies--which will be filled in special elections held on Tuesday, Nov. 3. One of those vacancies is in the California district that was represented by Democrat Ellen Tauscher before she was appointed undersecretary of state for arms control and international security by President Obama. The other is in the upstate New York district that was represented by Republican Rep. John McHugh, who was named by President Obama as secretary of the army.
 
CNSNews.com asked Speaker Pelosi on Friday whether she would allow a vote on Stupak’s amendment when the health care bill comes up on the floor. 

“We’re just finishing our conferencing on this legislation,” said Pelosi. “We haven’t even gone through the procedure as to what we’ll do on the floor, if there even are any amendments on the floor.”
 
“We will have legislation that will be, I think, compatible with the thinking of our members who have this concern,” she said. Here is a video of the complete interview with Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich):



Here is a partial transcript of CNSNews.com interview with Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.):
 
Jeffrey: Assuming that the course we’re on now continues and Congresswomen Slaughter does not allow a vote on your amendment [in] the rule—the rule [that must be approved] before the actual health-care bill that Speaker Pelosi presents to the House can be voted on--the House will have to vote on the rule itself setting the terms of debate--
 
Stupak: Correct.
 
Jeffrey: What are you going to do then?
 
Stupak: We will try to—we, there’s about 40 likeminded Democrats like myself—we’ll try to take down the rule. If all 40 of us vote in a bloc against the rule—because we think the Republicans will join us—we can defeat the rule. The magic number is 218. If we can have 218 votes against the rule, we win.
 
Jeffrey: If you hold all 40 of your guys how many votes do you have?
 
Stupak: About 220.
 
Jeffrey: So, you’ve got a two-vote margin there.
 
Stupak: Correct.

Jeffrey: So, you hold those 40, the rule comes up, they have a vote on the rule itself, 220 congressman vote against it, and 215 vote for it, then you win, and they cannot move forward to the health care bill.
 
Stupak: They cannot bring the bill to the floor

CNSNews.com correspondents Karen Schuberg and Adam Brickley contributed to this report.