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Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Here are a few comments from NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson on the October 2 Denver Post article that we have pasted in below:

(1) It is unfortunate that the Denver Post article does not mention the "public plan" problem, which is very important, and separate and distinct from the premium-subsidy problem. Nevertheless, there is some good reporting work reflected in the Denver Post story. Take special note of this sentence: "Democratic leaders, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are trying to work out a compromise with a small group of anti-abortion Democrats that would strengthen the Capp amendment language but fall short of the wholesale restrictions Stupak and allies want." Translation: Speaker Pelosi and Waxman are working on cosmetic changes to the Capps Amendment, which they will then try to peddle as an even-more-generous "compromise" by the pro-abortion side (but which in reality will put the federal government into the elective abortion business in both the public plan and the premium subsidy program). In any such new twist on the Waxman-Capps scam, we can expect that a prominent role will be assigned to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who impersonates a pro-life congressman, but who actually does the bidding of Planned Parenthood, Third Way, and Nancy Pelosi.

(2) In a the rebuttal to a pro-Capps piece by Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress, I wrote, "In recent days, more than 30 House Democrats have written to Speaker Pelosi to point out that the Capps Amendment just won't do. The House Democratic leadership now has some people working on gluing on some additional trim and accessories so that they can try to peddle Capps II as a new model. But under the hood, it will still be the same old clunker."

(3) If this is a subject that interests you, you might also want to check out the September 30 NRLC release, "National Right to Life says new events in Congress further uncover pro-abortion agenda in health care bills," and "The Truth About 'The Truth About the Capps Amendment'," on The Hill blog.

For further information:
Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
Washington, D.C.

[Denver Post story follows]
the health debate
Abortion latest snag in health reform
The issue is federal subsidies for policies that cover it. The Senate is drawing lines, too.
By Michael Riley
The Denver Post
Posted: 10/02/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

WASHINGTON — Abortion emerged this week as the latest incendiary in the minefield of health care reform, sending negotiators scurrying to find an elusive patch of middle ground to save overhaul legislation.
The danger became apparent after Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., announced he had a commitment from 40 House Democrats to oppose a bill unless it prevents insurance purchased with federal subsidies from covering abortions. Two key Democratic senators said they would push a similar provision when the reform bill is debated on the floor in the Senate.

The 190-member Pro Choice Caucus in the House fired back Thursday, threatening to vote down reform legislation if those restrictions are applied. "That's a vast expansion of restrictions on choice, and I don't think that's right," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., the Pro Choice Caucus co-chair. "We are not going to vote for a final bill that further restricts a woman's right to choose, period."

Congressional experts say there is a bit of political gamesmanship in all this, but they also concede that the issue is combustible enough that the outcome is unpredictable. Adding to the difficulty is that it appears the room for compromise is razor-thin. Indeed, this week's blow-up came only after the failure of negotiations between Stupak and DeGette that lasted most of the summer, said DeGette, who is also vice chair of the committee that wrote a large part of health care reform in the House.

"This is clearly a very emotional issue for the two sides," said William Pierce, a health care expert and lobbyist who is following the congressional debate closely. "A solution will be found. What that solution is, I can't tell you that right now." At the heart of the matter is a longstanding truce between the sides in the abortion debate that prevents federal money from being used to pay for abortions.

Health care reform measures in both the House and the Senate provide federal subsidies for low-income families to buy insurance. If those subsidies are used to buy policies that pay for abortions, anti-abortion forces argue, then federal money would effectively pay for those procedures. House negotiators had hoped to resolve the problem with an accounting trick. An amendment passed just before the August recess requires insurance companies to keep the subsidized portion of the premium separate from the portion paid for with private dollars. Reimbursements to doctors for abortions could come only from the second pot.

"It's a hoax," Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said of what is known as the Capp amendment. "You would have the federal government engaged big-time in the abortion business" under the amendment. The other side is just as adamant.

If federal subsidies couldn't be used for policies that cover abortion, insurance companies worried about losing those customers would stop offering policies that cover the procedure altogether, abortion-rights forces say. That would mean the elimination of private policies that cover abortions, they say.  "There might be language that could help strengthen the Capp amendment and give more of our members a feeling of comfort, but still not upset the balance," DeGette said.

The spat has threatened to upend the momentum of negotiations. Democratic leaders, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are trying to work out a compromise with a small group of anti-abortion Democrats that would strengthen the Capp amendment language but fall short of the wholesale restrictions Stupak and allies want.

If enough Democrats can be peeled away from that group, Democrats think they can save the bill, DeGette said.  "Having seen enough of these big debates about big issues, this is what happens," said Pierce, who was a Capitol Hill staffer during some of the most intense health care debates of the past two decades. "They go along, they look good, then boom — some issue pops up that has not been dealt with."

"But in the end, the president is going to say, 'I need the health care reform bill on my desk,' " he said. "The Democrats in the anti-abortion group are going to be asking themselves the same question as the pro-choice guys: 'Am I going to be willing to kill the bill over this?' "

Michael Riley: 303-954-1614 or

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