Critical Condition

Is Nelson The Senate’s Stupak?

Today, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) are planning to offer an Obamacare amendment that would bar federal dollars from funding abortions. As the Washington Post reports, “the amendment would mirror language adopted in the House on Nov. 7, over the strong opposition of abortion-rights groups. It would prohibit any public plan from covering abortion services, and would bar people who receive federal subsidies from using the money to buy plans that offer abortion coverage.” Hatch spoke to NRO about it last week.

Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), who, like Nelson, opposes abortion, says that he will support the amendment but adds that the issue won’t make or break his vote on the bill.

As Philip Klein at the American Spectator points out, “the big question is whether a bill that passes the Senate with weaker abortion language and a watered down government plan could make it through the House once representatives of the two chambers meet to reconcile their bills.”

For more about abortion and the health-care debate, make sure to read Kathryn Jean Lopez’s new column, which puts the House’s Stupak amendment in perspective.

UPDATE: From the Heritage Foundation:

The issue of federal funding of abortion may throw a monkey wrench into the Obamacare debate this week. As early as today, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) are expected to offer something very similar to Congressman Bart Stupak’s (D-MI) amendment to extend the current ban on federally funded abortion to Obamacare. If and only if, members of the Senate properly protect their procedural rights during this debate, this amendment may make it impossible for the bill to reach President Obama’s desk by January.

Once Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) files the Nelson-Hatch amendment, pro-abortion Senators in the Democratic caucus like Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will have a difficult decision to make: Do they vote for cloture, ending debate, and allow an up-or-down vote on the Nelson-Hatch amendment, or do they vote for a filibuster? If they vote to end debate and allow the vote, it is likely, maybe even probable, that 51 other Senators will vote in favor of the taxpayer-abortion-funding ban.

Once the abortion funding ban is in the bill, it will be next to impossible for pro-abortion forces to get it out. They will be in the same exact position House progressives were when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) forced them to accept the Stupak language or lose Obamacare entirely. Progressives in the House completely caved the first time around, but more strident pro-abortion members like Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO) have promised that the second time around they will stand up for their principals and vote down any Obamacare bill that comes contains Stupak like language.