Bishops offer support on key health care vote if pro-life conditions are met

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Pro-life Secretariat.
Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Pro-life Secretariat.


An official with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference has said that the bishops would work to secure a “key vote” for the progress of the Senate health care reform bill if an acceptable agreement on abortion funding restrictions is reached with House leaders.

Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, told Politico that the USCCB would strongly urge Democrats and Republicans to vote to waive the point of order blocking a next Senate vote.

“Whether it would be enough to get to 60 votes, I can’t predict. We would certainly try,” Doerflinger commented.

The USCCB supported the amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), which added strong restrictions on the funding of abortion to the House health care legislation, in keeping with the Hyde Amendment.

However, that provision did not make it into the present Senate version of the bill.

Any revisions to the Senate bill would need 60 votes. Such success is unlikely because 41 Republicans are reportedly determined to stop the legislation. According to Politico, the bishops moved “forcefully” to stop Republican efforts to derail the Stupak Amendment when it was up for a vote in the House.

Doerflinger indicated the USCCB would take the same position in support of a pro-life amendment to the Senate bill.

“If the Stupak amendment or something equivalent to it were in the reconciliation package on the Senate floor and it was necessary to get 60 votes to waive the point of order,” Doerflinger told Politico, “we would strongly urge everyone, Democratic and Republican, to vote to waive the point of order.”

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), told Politico the proposal is something to be explored.

“It could be something that could carry out the bishops’ objective,” he explained.

“That could be the key vote,” Kildee continued. “The bishops could say, ‘Are you really with us?’ That’s the key vote.”