Abortion Coverage Dispute Divides House Dems

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WASHINGTON -- Two days after President Barack Obama called for an up-or-down vote on his version of health care reform, congressional Democrats are divided over the bill.

Some are worried about how much it will cost while for others, the big issue is abortion.

A Democratic Brawl?

Although the Senate has been getting lots of attention for preparing to pass controversial health care legislation with a simple majority, the real fight over health care is shaping up among Democrats in the House of Representatives.

That's because to even get to the point of reconciliation in the Senate, the House must first pass the Senate bill in its original form. But for many Democrats, that is a nearly impossible vote to cast.

"There's still all the issues that have been there all along. How unaffordable this bill is. How it creates vast new bureaucracies that intrude between doctors and patients. And how it forces every one in America to buy an expensive health care plan they may not want or need," said Phil Kerpen, vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity.

The Senate bill also includes more liberal language when it comes to tax payer funding for abortions.

"This is not about abortion," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "This is a bill about providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans."

However, at least a dozen pro-life Democrats say they'll vote against the bill they say basically collects a tax to fund abortions.

"There is no federally funded abortion," Pelosi said. "That is the law of the land it is not changed in this bill."

"She's incorrect," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., fired back. "I'd ask the Speaker to direct her attention to pages 2069 to page 2078. There are two ways in which in those pages where you pay for abortion."

Stupak says tax breaks offered in the Senate bill to subsidize insurance polices could be used to cover abortions. He also noted that one dollar per month collected by Americans enrolled in health insurance exchanges will go towards reproductive health, which includes abortion.

Tricky Political Waters

Meanwhile, there's now talk of a separate bill that would put into law a prohibition on taxpayer funded abortions. But there is no guarantee the Senate would agree to it.

And even if House leaders are able to appease pro-life Democrats the cost of the legislation -- an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years -- will be tough for some fiscally conservative Democrats to swallow in an election year.

"Ultimately there probably will be a handful of so called Blue Dogs who know if they vote for an unaffordable budget busting bill like this, they'll lose come November," Kerpen said.

Democratic dissent in the House makes passage of a bill tricky since the original House health care bill only passed by five votes.

Promises, Promises

Republicans are also criticizing the president for breaking a campaign promise by encouraging the senate to pass health care reform with a simple majority.

During an interview in the midst of the presidential campaign, then candidate Obama said, "We're not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-one strategy."

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.