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There's a swirl of reports coming out now that leadership is negotiating with a handful of the Stupak crowd to get their votes. Pelosi says "This bill is about health care and not about abortion. There will be no further changes in the bill." But what's happening outside of this bill? A reminder--the Nelson Senate language will be what passes, because the reconciliation package cannot include a change in abortion language.

So the focus isn't on changes "in this bill"--it's what they promise Stupak, et al. outside of this bill. The Hill reports some sort of deal is in the works.

At least six anti-abortion-rights Democrats are open to supporting the healthcare bill if they can get a guarantee from the Senate that it will move separate legislation containing the House abortion language, one of those Democratic holdouts said Friday.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), one of Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) gang of staunch opponents of the Senate abortion language, said they are in discussions with senators and House leaders to secure such a commitment.

“There could be some kind of commitment from the other body to act on this later ... to ensure that the Senate language does not remain law,” he said....

The chairman would not say whether discussions between Stupak and Senate Democrats have risen to the leadership level, but he did say that he and Stupak are talking to House leaders, including Pelosi.

Asked how those discussions were going, Rahall said, “That’s undeterminable at this point.”

The anti-abortion-rights Democrats view the Saturday Rules Committee markup of the bill as an opportunity to set an up-or-down vote on the Stupak abortion language in a way that would not make it part of the bill itself. Abortion-rights supporters have been cool to the idea, despite the likelihood that such language would not find enough support in the Senate to become law.

Stupak himself has been pushing another procedural route, an "enrollment corrections bill." Here's what he said this morning on GMA, as reported by the Wonk Room.
STUPAK: George, that’s called an enrollment corrections bill. I presented that to leadership about ten days ago. There’s renewed interest in that piece of legislation that I and a number of us are ready to introduce. It’s prepared. Everybody’s looking at it right now. That’s one way, maybe. But we set the deal with the Senate. You give us a vote in the House. We had a vote in the House. It was overwhelmingly 240-194, to keep public law, no public funding for abortion.
Indeed, Stupak has been promoting this strategy for weeks, telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he would support a separate “tie bar” bill earlier this month. The tie bar approach requires just 51 votes in the Senate and would “tie” the health care bill to Stupak abortion provisions. “It almost goes the same time,” Stupak told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren. “And what the bill really says is, it does not become law unless this other piece of legislation becomes law.”
And that would make the Stupak Coathanger Amendment law without "further changes in this bill." In the Wonk Room post, Volsky takes Stupak at his word that he only wants to reinforce Hyde, and suggests that the "tie bar" legislation leadership offer in return be a codification of the Hyde amendment--an evil, yes, but not as evil as the more extreme Stupak language. But it seems damned unlikely that Stupak will take that deal, and nothing in his actions over the past months suggest that he'll settle for anything less than getting abortion restrictions into private insurance coverage.

The problem for Pelosi, getting six or seven of those Stupak supporters by agreeing to letting his Coathanger Amendment go forward outside of this bill could mean losing six or seven of the 41 pro-choice members who are on record as opposed to Stupak. A handful of those folks are probably pissed off enough at the other liberal losses in this bill--Stupak could be the tipping point.

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Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Mar 19, 2010 at 11:26 AM PDT.

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