GOP Vows Fight as Key HC Vote Nears

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Republicans are vowing to delay passage of sweeping health care legislation after Democrats secured Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson as the 60th and decisive vote.

Nelson's vote put Senate Democratic leaders one step closer to acting on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.

GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona acknowledged there was little stopping Democrats from passing the historic bill by Christmas Eve.

Still, he pledged, "We'll fight the good fight. We will fight until the last vote."

In fact, senators on both sides of the isle ratcheted up their rhetoric in the run-up to a make-or-break test vote set to take place around 1 a.m. Monday.

"This process is not legislation. This process is corruption," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., referring to the last-minute flurry of dealmaking that secured Nelson's vote.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island fired back saying Republicans were on a "no-holds barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear. ... There will be a reckoning. There will come a day of judgment about who was telling the truth."

Sen. Nelson Defends Decision

On Saturday Nelson, D-Neb., said he made his decision after winning fresh concessions to limit the availability of abortions in insurance sold in newly created exchanges, as well as tens of million in federal Medicaid funds for his home state.

"I know this is hard for some of my colleagues to accept and I appreciate their right to disagree," he said at a Saturday news conference in the Capitol, referring to the abortion issue. "But I would not have voted for this bill without these provisions."

So-Called 'Compromise'

The American Center for Law and Justice expressed its disappointment with the so-called compromise over the issue of abortion funding.

"This compromise offers no real protection for human life and does nothing to keep federal health care funds from being used for abortion," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ.

"The fact is that the Senate bill specifically authorizes federal funds to be used for abortions. The so-called 'protections' in the compromise simply require that the federal subsidies and premium dollars that are collected for these services be kept separate from other federal funds. The end result provides no restrictions on abortions, but simply sets up what can only be described as a scheme that allows for federal funding of abortions, which directly violates long-standing federal law under the Hyde Amendment," Sekulow explained.

"While Sen. Nelson has repeatedly expressed interest in keeping abortion funding out of health care, we're extremely disappointed with this compromise. This is not in the best interest of the American people who understand that abortion should never be a mandatory health care benefit. This latest compromise only adds to a problematic Senate bill that endorses government-run health care and will not serve the nation or the American people well. We urge the Senate to reject this bill in its entirety," Sekulow said.

The ACLJ says it has heard from nearly 200,000 Americans who oppose the federal funding of abortion in health care legislation.

President Obama's Statement

At the White House, Obama cited hailed the legislation as "the largest deficit reduction plan in a decade." In a brief statement, the president also said the country is "on the cusp of making health care reform a reality."

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the measure "will finally level the playing field between American families and the insurance industry."

Republicans Respond

"This bill is a legislative train wreck of historic proportions," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said. He said it includes cuts to Medicare, home health care and hospices as well as "massive tax increases" at a time of double-digit unemployment.

On the point of abortion, the revised measure would let a state disallow coverage in new insurance exchanges by passing a law to that effect. Additionally, it sets up a mechanism to segregate funds that would be used to pay for abortions from federal subsidy dollars flowing to health plans.

Federal law now prohibits public money for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. From the beginning, the issue has been how those restrictions would be applied to a new stream of federal money under the overhaul bill.

Sources: The Associated Press, ACLJ

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