From Steven Ertelt at LifeNews:
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- Senator Ben Nelson announced today that he will become the crucial 60th vote that Democrats need to pass a government-run health care bill. Nelson has been holding out because of the massive abortion funding in the bill, but said today he will give the measure his support.
Nelson outlined his support for the government-run health care bill in a press conference Saturday morning after he reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on abortion and other unrelated issues.
Under the compromise, Nelson said it prohibits abortion funding in a way that earns his vote.
"We have an agreement that the plan with not use federal dollars to fund abortions," he said. "I believe we have accomplished that goal. It's clear I wouldn't have voted for this bill without these conditions."
The compromise Nelson agreed to with Reid makes it so states could disallow abortion coverage in the new health insurance exchanges.
Nelson explained that women using government subsidies to purchase health insurance who want to purchase abortions in the states that opt out of the coverage would have to make a separate payment to pay for the abortion. She would pay one payment to the insurer to pay for the policy and a separate payment to pay for abortion coverage.
That would appear to be a far cry from the authentic abortion funding ban pro-life groups sought as states would also be able to cover abortions under the exchange and thereby force taxpayers in those states to pay for abortions under the system.
The deal also appears to fall short of the amendment Nelson sponsored with Republicans to ban abortion funding and it doesn't gel with his prior statements that he would not support a government-run health care bill without a true abortion funding ban.
Family Research Council's Tom McClusky said in response to the new compromise that "Reid's bill would force taxpayers to pay for abortions even if they opt out."
Essentially, the language of the Stupak and Nelson amendments is not included in the final amendment Reid is offering that Nelson agreed to, but it relies on a "segregation of funds" model that pro-life groups have previously rejected.
The Nelson-Reid deal also doesn't appear to address other major abortion and pro-life problems with the bill such as rationing and the promotion of assisted suicide.
Nelson said he would not vote for the bill without the provisions he and Reid agreed to and promised to voted against a final bill that emerges from the conference committee if the abortion funding provisions are removed.
"This cloture vote is based on a full understanding that there will be a limited conference between the Senate and House," he said. "I reserve the right to vote against the next cloture vote if there are material changes to this agreement in the conference report."
Nelson also said that the abortion compromise as presented in the manager's amendment Reid is offering today would include conscience clause language for pro-life medical workers, funding for programs and services to help pregnant women who are carrying to term, and an increase in the adoption credits.
Leading pro-abortion lawmakers have already hailed the compromise and say they can support it -- giving a clear indication that the Nelson-Reid language does not meet the approval of pro-life advocates.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have already analyzed the language and say there is a concern that it will enable abortion funding on Indian reservations.
Because the Nelson-Reid compromise has different language than the Stupak amendment in the House bill, the House and Senate will have to agree to a final wording that will either remove the authentic Stupak abortion funding ban or leave in the compromise.
Rep. Stupak has already said he has enough votes in the House to defeat the bill if the abortion funding ban is removed.
Nelson negotiated the deal with Reid along with pro-abortion Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and members of the administration of pro-abortion President Barack Obama. Reid also shuffled back and forther between his office and that of pro-abortion Sen. Barbara Boxer, who also participated n the negotiations and hailed the final product.
Reports indicate Reid told Boxer, "It's done" after striking the deal with Reid and the two exchanged in an embrace knowing they had 60 votes for the pro-abortion health care bill.
The US Bishops Conference has reacted. Cardinal DiNardo the USCCB Pro-life Chair writes:
ABORTION COMPROMISE’ DOES NOT ADDRESS CORE PROBLEM IN SENATE HEALTH BILL, SAYS CARDINAL DINARDO, BISHOPS’ PRO-LIFE CHAIR
‘Compromise’ would make citizens pay for others’ abortions
Senate should mirror House of Representative’s Hyde amendment language
Bill doesn’t meet goals of affordability, fairness to legal immigrants, protection of life
WASHINGTON—Responding to reports of a new “compromise” proposal on abortion in the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo today reaffirmed the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the legislation will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment. Cardinal DiNardo is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chairman of the Conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The Cardinal commented on efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the Senate bill’s treatment of abortion.
“Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy. Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”
“I welcome Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to improve this bill,” said Cardinal DiNardo. “In particular he has sought to improve protection for conscience rights, and to include programs of support for pregnant women and adoptive parents that we favor in their own right. However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”
Cardinal DiNardo had written to the Senate on December 14, saying that “the Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support authentic reform of our ailing health care system.” His letter cited “three moral criteria for reform: respect for life and conscience; affordability for the poor; and access to much-needed basic health care for immigrants,” noting that so far the Senate bill “has fallen short of the example set by the House version of this legislation in each of these areas.”
On abortion funding, the Cardinal urged the Senate to “incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself” when it approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for the new fiscal year on December 13. This Act reaffirmed the Hyde amendment and other laws that exclude elective abortions from health plans receiving federal funds -- including the plans that cover the Senators themselves and all other federal employees. The Senate so far has failed to reflect this same policy in its health care bill as the House has done, he said [see www.usccb.org/healthcare/DiNardo_1214_letter.pdf].
Cardinal DiNardo said December 18: “We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied. And whatever the immediate outcome in the Senate, we will continue to work for health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. As the bishops have said many times, ‘providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.’ In particular we will work vigorously to ensure that the substance of the House’s provision on abortion funding is included in final legislation. A special debt of gratitude is owed to House and Senate members, especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who have placed their votes and reputation on the line to stand up for unborn children. Making this legislation consistent with longstanding federal law on abortion will not threaten needed authentic reform, but will help ensure its passage.”
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