Senate Passes Test Vote as Sen. Nelson Announces Support
The Senate voted for cloture this morning on an $871 billion bill to extend health care coverage to most Americans.
Senator Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, the last holdout, said Saturday that he would support the bill after Senate Majority leader Harry Reid unveiled his final package of changes. Nelson had said he would filibuster the bill because it federally funded abortions.
Here's the difference between abortion funding in the House and the Senate versions of the health care proposal, according to Paul Kane of the Washington Post.
Under the new abortion provisions, states can opt out of allowing plans to cover abortion in the insurance exchanges the bill would set up. The exchanges are designed to serve individuals who lack coverage through their jobs, with most receiving federal subsidies to buy insurance. Enrollees in plans that cover abortion procedures would pay with separate checks – one for abortion, one for any other health-care services.
This was an effort to comport with the 32-year prohibition against federal funding for abortions, but the Nelson compromise is a softening of the House language, which was written by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). The Stupak amendment forbid any insurer in the exchange "to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" – a position that abortion rights advocates suggested would have led to many insurance providers dropping abortion coverage.
The Associated Press also offers a summary of the differences.
Conservative groups like Americans United for Life (AUL) and Family Research Council (FRC) sent out e-mails in opposition to Nelson's support.
"A ‘yes' vote this morning was a solid ‘yes' to the expansion of federal funding for abortion," said Charmaine Yoest, president of AUL. "We will be making this tragic decision clear to those constituents who have been misinformed that their Senator is pro-life."
FRC asked 'Is There No Democratic Senator Who Cares About Life?'
"Senators Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) gave mere lip service to protect the most innocent among us by placing their stamp of approval on government funding for abortion coverage in direct conflict with longstanding policy," said Tony Perkins, president of FRC. "I ask them to reverse course in any future votes to move this deadly bill forward."
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee compared Nelson to Judas, according to CNN.
"I don't want [senators] to go up there…and then somehow go back and boast, 'Here's some money that I got for you,' Huckabee said. "The last time we saw that kind of historic moment it was 30 pieces of silver and that didn't work out too well for us either."
According to a CNN poll, 56 percent of Americans oppose the Senate's version of the bill while 42 percent them support it.