Will Republican Senators Vote Pro-Choice to Kill Health Care Reform Bill?

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: All 41 Republican Senators vowed in a letter today to do everything in their power to kill Democrats' health care legislation and vote en bloc against procedural motions Democrats want to use to fix the health reform bill passed Christmas Eve by the Senate.

This would include a scenario where the Republican Senators oppose language championed by anti-abortion rights Democrats in the House and side instead with abortion rights defenders.

The House moderates want to ban any federal money from going to insurance companies that offer elective abortions. The Senate-passed health reform bill would create pools of segregated funds with only private money going to cover abortions. “So you’d be voting with Barbara Boxer on an abortion measure?” a reporter asked Sen. Tom Coburn, the OB-GYN and Oklahoma Republican who vehemently opposes abortion rights, at a press conference this afternoon. Boxer, a California Democrat, is a vehement supporter of abortion rights.

“Yes I would. I certainly would,” Coburn said, clarifying that he would oppose a procedural motion in the Senate to allow the stricter ban on federal funding for abortion from being added to the Senate health reform bill.

Coburn argued that opposing language being demanded in the House by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, even though it is supported by the Conference of Catholic Bishops and other anti-abortion rights activist groups.

Coburn said that there aren’t even 51 votes in the Senate for Stupak’s language, so voting in a way to scuttle the entire bill -- even if it is along abortion rights defenders and on an abortion measure -- is the conscience vote for a foe of abortion rights. Because killing the health reform bill as a whole would kill the compromise abortion coverage language worked out by Democratic Senators in December, Coburn said.

Only 45 Senators voted for the Stupak language -- 54 opposing -- when Senators considered the language as part of their health reform bill December 8th.

This is the confusing part of Democrats’ strategy to enact health reform legislation. The reconciliation rules bypass 60-vote procedural requirements in the Senate for deficit reduction. Policy measures are supposed to be exempt from those rules. And there is precedent for abortion measures being ruled out of order on reconciliation bills.

Regardless, it will take 60 votes for any non-budget-related items to be included in a fix-it bill Democrats want to pass alongside the Senate version of the health reform bill. The Senate parliamentarian would be in charge of determining what has to do with the deficit reduction (needing only 51 votes) and what is policy (needing 60).

The four conservative Republicans appearing today said they would oppose any measure offered during the reconciliation process.

They argued that Democrats in the House will not be able to provide cover for members squeamish about voting for the Senate health reform bill because it will have to become law before it can be modified with a list of fix-its during reconciliation.

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