Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says President Obama and Rep. Bart Stupak share the goal of a status quo of no federal funding for abortion in the health care reform package. In a “This Week” interview, Sebelius added that if the abortion language in the Senate bill does not satisfy Stupak, “the conversation will continue”. Stupak says he carries with him 11 votes which hinge on abortion and those votes could be the difference in the bill’s fate in the House.
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DOWD: One very important, I think, controversial thing, is that a few votes -- Representative Bart Stupak has talked about the need that the Senate bill has to include abortion language that was in the House bill, to prevent federal funding of abortion and an expansion on services. He says he carries with him 11 votes. Can you pass a bill or can the president pass a bill and the Congress pass a bill without those votes? SEBELIUS: Well, the goal is the same. The president has said from the outset, we don't want to change the status quo on abortion funding. Neither the Senate or the House bill has any federal funding for abortion, none. Yes, abortion services are provided, and people will pay out of their own pockets, in both the Senate and the House, but they do it in slightly different ways-- DOWD: Is Representative Stupak wrong about this? SEBELIUS: Well, I think Representative Stupak has worked as a member of Energy & Commerce. He wants universal health care. He wants health reform for the people whom he represents. I think we'll continue to work on getting this done. He shares the goal with the president, that no federal funding will be provided for abortion. DOWD: Do you think a deal can be done that does not include the language he wants, but something in (inaudible), is that one of the things that can be considered?
SEBELIUS: I think the Senate bill, actually, has a different set of words than the amendment that Representative Stupak had in the House, but confirmed by legal scholars and various people that it does exactly the same thing. There are no federal funds for abortions. But I think that if that does not satisfy the congressman, the conversations will continue. But certainly, his goal and the president's goal are the same -- do not change the status quo on abortion.
DOWD: Well, lots of interesting issues to resolve and a deadline that the president set for March 17th, trying to get the House to pass the Senate bill in the House before he leaves on his foreign trip. I appreciate you being here. Thanks for coming.