Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Villains Of The Piece

On Sunday, I lauded the efforts of Rep. Lois Capps to keep the pressure on to remove the Stupak Amendment from the health care reform act. I noted that women in the Senate were working on the same issue. Today's Los Angeles Times has some follow up information on the funding for abortion and on the public option provision.

President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill on Sunday to rally Democrats on his signature healthcare initiative as the Senate moved closer to addressing two of the biggest land mines in the bill's path: the terms of a new public insurance option and limits on federal abortion funding.

A showdown on the abortion issue is scheduled for early this week. An amendment to set stricter limits on federal funding is expected to be defeated.

As for the public option, behind-the-scenes Democratic negotiations to satisfy both liberals and moderates quickened Sunday.

It appears that the proposed amendment on the funding for abortion is similar to the compromise Rep. Capps originally proposed in the House, which, unfortunately was defeated in favor of the Stupak Amendment. It would direct that in federally subsidized insurance policies, only the private funds could be used. Capps' amendment was better insofar as it directed that among the pool available to those using the subsidy plan at least one policy had to cover abortion and at least one had to exclude coverage for abortion.

As to the public option plan, it's pretty hard to tell at this juncture just what the Senate has in mind, but I suspect it's a watered down version which would have rather strict limitations and would phase in over years instead of not being available immediately. That means essentially no public option at all.

But neither suits a certain contingent of the Democratic Party. Here is a list of the current identifiable villains.

First, on the abortion funding issue:

"The minute those issues are resolved, this process will accelerate," said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who has backed stronger antiabortion language but says he will support the legislation even if it is not changed.

The abortion amendment, expected to be offered by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), is similar to language approved by the House. It would ban abortion coverage under the public option as well as prohibit insurers from covering abortion services for any woman who receives federal subsidies to buy insurance. The only exceptions would be in cases of rape or incest or to save the woman's life.

Now, the public option issue:

Most congressional Democrats consider the public insurance option crucial to ensure that people of moderate means have more choices and more affordable plans. But centrists worry that a public option would undercut the private market. Several -- including Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Nelson -- have said they would not vote for the bill if it included such a provision.

These senators have decided that we can't be riling the Council of Bishops or the insurance industry. Both groups are far more important than the health of women or the health of the poor and those of moderate means.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised. We should, however, be mad as hell and be willing to do something about it.

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