Sen. Casey May Still Back Health Care Bill Despite Defeat of Amendment To Prohibit Federal Funding of Abortion

By Penny Starr | December 8, 2009 | 6:57 PM EST

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) (Photo courtesy of Casey's Senate Web site)

(  - Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), a co-sponsor of the Nelson-Hatch amendment to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds from paying for any part of a health insurance plan that covers abortion, said he would not draw a “line in the sand” and not vote for a Senate health care bill even if it does not include the prohibition language.
The Nelson-Hatch amendment was defeated late on Tuesday by a vote of 54 to 45.  Seven Democrats, including Casey, voted in favor of the amendment, while two Republicans – Sens. Olympia Snowe (Me.) and Susan Collins (Me.) -- voted against it.
Prior to the vote, asked Sen. Casey that if the amendment were defeated, would he still vote for the health care bill.
“I’ve said, I don’t know how many times, probably at least 50 times, that I would not let any issue, including important issues like abortion, of adoption – no one has done more on children’s issues, no one, on this debate,” Casey said. “Even on those issues I haven’t said, ‘If I don’t get this – a children’s health insurance program, a public option’ -- that I would draw that line in the sand.”
Casey also said that the defeat of the amendment would not end the debate. 

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)

“After this vote – I don’t know how this vote will turn out – no matter what the vote is, this discussion is going to continue,” Casey said. “This vote will give people a chance to vote on the issue, this amendment will not be determinative of where the legislation will go.”
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) introduced the amendment on Monday, saying that it was needed because the language in the bill, crafted by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats, did not explicitly prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions in private insurance plans or through tax credits.
“As written, the Senate health care bill allows taxpayer dollars, directly and indirectly, to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion. Most Nebraskans, and Americans, do not favor using public funds to cover abortion and as a result this bill shouldn’t open the door to do so,” Nelson said in a statement about introducing the amendment on Monday.
After the defeat of his amendment on Tuesday, Nelson did not rule out a filibuster of the bill.  Without his support, the Democrats in the Senate do not have enough votes to stop a filibuster.
“What happened tonight makes it harder to be supportive” of the bill, Nelson said, as reported in Politico.  “We’ll see what happens.