GOP Senators Warn House: Vote for Senate Health Care Bill Is Vote for Federally Funded Abortions

March 10, 2010 - 8:18 PM
Republican senators said that House members who vote for the Senate-passed health care bill would "own it," and that nothing would be changed through reconciliation, including prohibiting federal (taxpayer) funds from being used to pay for abortions.

Sen. John Thune (R-N.C.) said at a press briefing Wednesday on Capitol Hill that a vote in the House for the Senate-passed health care bill would not be a pro-life vote. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Republican senators said Wednesday that House members who vote for the Senate-passed health care bill would "own it," and that nothing would be changed through reconciliation, including prohibiting federal (taxpayer) funds from being used to pay for abortions.
 
“If (House members) are being told by anybody in their leadership that they’re going to fix this in reconciliation in the House, it is a pig in a poke,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told CNSNews.com. “There is no way that this (abortion funding) can be modified or adjusted through reconciliation.
 
“And those pro-life Democrats who held the line in support of the Stupak language – assuming that reconciliation can correct that – are being promised something that they can’t deliver on,” Thune said.
 
“And so I think that if that is the issue that matters to you, and you’re a House Democrat, then you better think long and hard, because that’s not going to be a pro-life vote,” he added.
 
The Stupak amendment to the House health care bill explicitly prohibits any federal (taxpayer) funds to pay for health insurance plans that cover abortion. The Senate bill has different language on abortion, which specifically allows for taxpayer-funding of certain health plans that cover abortion.
 
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said no “fix” would be made to the Senate bill through reconciliation on abortion or any other issue.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said that before House members cast a vote for the Senate health care bill they should realize that nothing will be changed during reconciliation, which can happen only after the bill is signed into law by President Barack Obama. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“Reconciliation only applies to law,” Coburn said. “There can be no reconciliation unless there’s already a law.  Which means the president will have to sign the bill for reconciliation to apply to the Senate health care bill,” Coburn said. “And if it is, what is the motivation for the Senate to change anything?”
 
Coburn said in 1965  -- the last time abortion was addressed in reconciliation in the Senate -- it was rejected, and he added that the issue would become like “bird droppings” if it was reduced to the reconciliation process in the case of the Senate-passed health care bill.
 
When President Barack Obama held a summit last month to debate health care reform with members of both parties, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the president directly that federal law has for decades prevented federal funding of abortions and that the House health care bill had continued in that tradition.
 
“For 30 years, we’ve had a federal law that says that we're not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions,” Boehner said, referring to the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is endangered.
 
“We’ve had this debate in the House. It was a very serious debate,” said Boehner. “But in the House, the House spoke. And the House upheld the language we have had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions,” Boehner said, referring to Rep. Bob Stupak’s (D-Mich.) amendment to the House bill, which mirrors the language of the Hyde Amendment.
 
“This (Senate) bill that we have before us – and there was no reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President – begins, for the first time in 30 years, allows for the taxpayer-funding of abortions,” Boehner told Obama at the health care summit on Feb. 25.

Obama did not directly address Boehner’s charge about the Senate bill allowing for federal funds to pay for abortion, but instead suggested that all that Boehner said was merely the "standard talking points" and Democrats would "profoundly disagree" with many of them.
  
Thune, who served in the House before becoming a senator, said promises to change the Senate bill after it has become law should not be believed.
 
“Those of us who served in the House know full well that when you are told to trust the Senate or, ‘Don’t worry we’ll fix it,’ those are promises we’ve all heard before,” Thune said. “And believe me we’ve learned the hard way on many occasions not to believe in those kind of promises.”
 
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said that when then President George W. Bush was trying to get his No Child Left Behind education legislation passed, the president assured him that the bill would be altered after it passed so that states would be able to “opt out” of the program.
 
“It’s still not been fixed, and it won’t be this time either,” DeMint said.
 
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said that House members should think ahead to the November mid-term elections before they cast a vote to pass the Senate health care bill.
 
“I can assure you that will be the primary issue between now and November,” Wicker said. “So I would urge my colleagues in the House to listen to the people and do the political thing, but for heaven’s sake, do the right thing.”
 
All four Republican senators said that even if the Senate-passed bill made it to reconciliation, all 41 Republicans in that body have pledged to support the “Byrd Rule,” which says that only budget-related items can be altered in the reconciliation bill, no extraneous matter that potentially could include the issue of abortion.