House Dems split on health care bill

November 10, 2009 9:10:01 AM PST
A fight has broken out among House democrats over the just passed health care bill. It is over a provision in the bill restricting access to abortions. Democrats who oppose abortion rights insisted on the provision and progressives had to go along.

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The health care bill passed the House Saturday night, but the vote was a squeaker and the bill contains a bitter pill for many progressive democrats.

"We worked very hard to try and prevent the amendment from being adopted. We did not have the votes," said Rep. George Miller, D-Walnut Creek.

As Martinez Congressman Miller explained Monday afternoon, the bill contains an amendment that insurance companies participating in a national insurance exchange would be barred from offering policies that cover elective abortions.

"That policy could not provide for abortion," Miller said. "So, women in fact would be losing a right."

At the San Francisco Archdiocese, the director of public policy says Catholic bishops were instrumental in passing that amendment.

"And, not just the bishops institutionally in Washington," said George Wesolek. "But, this was something that was talked about in probably almost every parish, Catholic parish, in the United States."

At the Planned Parenthood health center in Walnut Creek, spokesperson Adrienne Bousian says the amendment cannot stand.

"We believe that those who support women's health will be able to get a carefully-crafted compromise through," she said.

On Monday, at least 40 democrats in the House signed a letter to Nancy Pelosi promising they will vote against the final passage of any bill that restricts a woman's right to choose. ABC7 political analyst Professor Bruce Cain believes a compromise can be negotiated. But, if push comes to shove, it will the progressives that will cave rather than kill the bill, embarrass the speaker, and weaken the party.

"And, down the road maybe, even making Obama less likely to get re-elected... So, I don't think the progressive wing wants to lose power so in the end, the pressure is going to be on them," he said.

A Berkeley-based organization that tracks money in politics called Maplight.org found that House members voting against the health care bill received on average 33 percent more money from the health insurance industry than those who voted for the bill.

Professor Cain told ABC7 his sources at the Senate tell him it will be late December at the earliest before the Senate votes on the bill.

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