Waxman Says ‘No Guarantee’ Amendment Prohibiting Abortion Funding Will Be Retained in Final Version of Health Care Bill

November 8, 2009 - 3:54 PM
Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said there is "no guarantee" that an amendment prohibiting federal funding of abortion in the House-passed health care bill will be retained in the final version of the bill.
(CNSNews.com) - House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says there is “no guarantee” that an amendment approved by the House on Saturday that prohibits federal funding of abortion in the health care bill will be retained in the final version of the bill. The bill must still go through a House-Senate conference committee and could be stripped out there.
 
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said during floor debate on the bill Saturday that he doubts the amendment will survive the conference committee.
 
The amendment in question was sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). It was approved by a vote of 240 to 194 shortly before the House voted 220 to 215 late Saturday to approve the full health care bill. Sixty-four Democrats voted for Stupak’s amendment. Both Waxman and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) voted against it.
 
The amendment would prohibit federal funds from paying for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion. Stupak told CNSNews.com in a video interview posted on Oct. 23 that he had organized a group of about 40 Democrats who would vote to kill the health-care bill if Speaker Pelosi did not allow a straight up-or-down vote on his amendment when the health bill came to the House floor.

Pelosi finally consented to this request and instructed the House Rules Committee to approve a vote on Stupak’s amendment in the wee hours of Saturday morning—the same day the bill came up for a vote.
 
During debate on the bill on the House floor Saturday afternoon, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) said he believed the Democratic leadership had relented and allowed a vote on Stupak’s amendment only because they needed more votes to pass the bill itself. Boehner said he doubted the amendment would be included in the final version of the bill that emerges from a House-Senate conference committee.  
 
“The only reason this amendment is allowed to be offered is in order to secure enough votes to try to move this bill through the floor today,” said Boehner. “And I have my doubts about whether this language if it passes has any chance of ever being in the final version of this bill.”
 
To make his point, Boehner engaged in a colloquy with Waxman, whose committee was one of three in the House that drafted the legislation.
 
“I want to ask the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Waxman, whether he can guarantee me that if the House does vote in fact for Mr. Stupak’s amendment, the gentleman will guarantee me that when this bill comes back from conference that that language will remain in the bill?’ asked Boehner.
 
“As the gentlemen well knows the decision is not up to one person, it will be up to the conferees and the conferees will have to be meeting with the Senate conferees in going over a number of positions,” said Waxman. “But if this amendment is adopted by the House it will be the House position as we go into conference. We will have to discuss it further and then we will see what will be the result. But no guarantee can be made by me or any other member at this time. There will be an opportunity, as you know, to instruct the conferees, which reinforces, of course, the particular part of the House bill.”
 
In his Oct. 23 video interview with CNSNews.com, Stupak said he knew the struggle for his amendment would not be over even if the amendment initially managed to win a vote of the full House to include the amendment in the House version of the bill. He noted that the language could be stripped out in the conference committee. 
 
Here is the text of the colloquy between House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman that took place on the House floor during debate on the health-care bill on Nov. 7, 2009:
 
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio): Let me thank my colleague for yielding. It will not be a surprise to any of you that I rise in opposition to this bill. One of the issues in this bill that is of concern to members on both sides of the aisle has to do with the sanctity of life. The Rules Committee made in order an amendment by our colleague from Michigan, Mr. Stupak, that would continue existing law that no federal funds will be used for abortion. And while this debate and vote is grateful that we are going to have it in the House, I want to ask the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Waxman, whether he can guarantee me that if the House does vote in fact for Mr. Stupak’s amendment, the gentleman will guarantee me that when this bill comes back from conference that that language will remain in the bill. I am happy to yield.
 
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.): As the gentlemen well knows the decision is not up to one person, it will be up to the conferees and the conferees will have to be meeting with the Senate conferees in going over a number of positions. But if this amendment is adopted by the House it will be the House position as we go into conference. We will have to discuss it further and then we will see what will be the result. But no guarantee can be made by me or any other member at this time. There will be an opportunity, as you know, to instruct the conferees, which reinforces, of course, the particular part of the House bill.
 
Boehner: Reclaiming my time, it is the reason at this point in the debate, is that while we are grateful to have this amendment, this chance to vote, to make sure that taxpayer funding is not used for abortion, which has been the policy of the land for the last 30 years, as the gentleman pointed out there is no guarantee that at the end of the day this language will be in the bill. Now, I have been a chairman of a committee, I understand that there are no guarantees.  But that’s the whole point here. The only reason this amendment is allowed to be offered is in order to secure enough votes to try to move this bill through the floor today.  And I have my doubts about whether this language if it passes has any chance of ever being in the final version of this bill. I yield back.