Hoyer Tries to Appease Stupak on Abortion Funding in Health Care Bill; Stupak Stands by Vow to Kill Bill If No Vote on His Pro-Life Amendment

By Matt Cover | October 27, 2009 | 4:35 PM EDT

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he hoped something could be worked out to address Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) insistence that the House vote on his amendment to explicitly prohibit any federal money from paying for any part of a health insurance plan that covers abortion when the the health care bill (H.R. 3200) comes to the House floor.

Hoyer, however, declined to say whether he would actually support a floor vote on Stupak's amendment. Hoyer did say that Stupak’s proposal perhaps could be included in what he called “a manager’s amendment.” 

Stupak, meanwhile, is standing by his vow to try to kill the health care bill entirely if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not allow a direct up or down vote on his amendment on the House floor.
Stupak told CNSNews.com last week that he has organized a group of “about 40 likeminded Democrats” who are supporting him in this effort.

Hoyer was asked by CNSNews.com at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday if he would support a floor vote on Stupak’s amendment. Hoyer responded that, after talking to his fellow Democrat last Thursday, he was hopeful the issue could be resolved.
“The issue is being worked on and Bart Stupak is very much a part of the working group on this,” said Hoyer. “I talked to Bart Stupak on the floor Thursday and he is very hopeful that something will be worked out that will accommodate the legitimate concerns that Bart Stupak and other members have, and I’m hopeful that will happen.”
When reminded that Stupak told CNSNews.com in a videotaped interview that he would kill the health care bill if he does not get a floor vote on his amendment, Hoyer repeated his hope that the issue could be resolved, hinting that Stupak’s amendment might be rolled into a manager’s amendment.
“What I said was that I hoped that this will be worked out and it may be included in a manager’s amendment and he’s working on that and others are working on that,” said Hoyer.
A manager’s amendment is a package of amendments that is voted on as a whole. They usually pass because their contents are worked out in advance by leaders of both parties.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) (AP Photo)

Stupak, however, did not share Hoyer’s optimism. In a statement to CNSNews.com, Stupak’s spokesperson, Michelle Begnoche, said that the pro-life Democrat stood by his promise to kill the bill if it allows federal funding of abortion.
“While Representative Hoyer may be more optimistic that this issue can be worked out, Congressman Stupak remains hopeful they can come to an agreement on the issue of federal funding for abortion,” said Begnoche.
“However, at this point he has not seen language to indicate that there will be a manager’s amendment on this issue,” she said.
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.”
According to Stupak, Rules Chairman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) told him  there was "no way" her committee would approve a rule for the health-care bill that would allow a vote on his amendment by the full House.

Stupak’s amendment would prohibit federal funds from paying for any part of an insurance plan that provides abortion. If the bill passes in its current form, federal health insurance subsidies could be used to pay for buy insurance plans that cover abortion.