The future of the Stupak amendment, cont’d

THE FUTURE OF THE STUPAK AMENDMENT, CONT’D…. Opponents of abortion rights added the Stupak/Pitts amendment to the House health care reform bill very late in the process on Saturday, but its future is still in doubt.

The Senate legislation will, of course, merge two committee bills, but neither of them have the extreme language of the Stupak measure. As such, it’s extremely unlikely that the Senate bill will start out with the provision when the bill goes to the floor. At that point, it would need to be approved by the amendment process, and that’s unlikely to happen.

One of Congress’s foremost champions of abortion rights said on Monday that the Senate did not have the votes to add a more restrictive anti-abortion amendment to health care reform legislation.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that 60 votes would be needed to strip the current health care bill of its abortion-related language and replace it with a version resembling that passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday. And, in an interview with the Huffington Post, the California Democrat predicted that pro-choice forces in the Senate would keep that from happening.

“If someone wants to offer this very radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long] compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votes to do it,” Boxer said. “And I believe in our Senate we can hold it.”

Sen. Max Baucus, who’s not exactly a pro-champion, agreed. “It would have to be added,” the Montana Democrat said. “I doubt it could pass.”

So do I. Looking back at the Senate Finance Committee process — the most conservative of the committees considering reform — Orrin Hatch pushed a measure that was like the Stupak amendment. It failed.

President Obama, meanwhile, seems largely satisfied to let lawmakers work things out, but he nevertheless signaled last night that the Stupak amendment will have to be changed. He told ABC News’ Jake Tapper that “there there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we’re not changing the status quo.”

The point being, the Stupak measure would change the status quo.

It will, however, remain a very problematic area. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, continues to look for an excuse to help Republicans block a vote on the reform bill. Yesterday, his spokesperson said Nelson was “pleased” with the Stupak amendment, and is “highly unlikely” to vote for reform unless it includes language to “clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion.”

Stay tuned.