Cloture vote now key after failure of abortion funding restrictions in health care bill

Sen. Ben Nelson / Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Sen. Ben Nelson / Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid


With the failure of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment restrictions on abortion funding, focus turns to a cloture vote to end debate on the Senate health care bill. While pro-life Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson had previously said he would oppose cloture without the amendment, a spokesman today declined to comment on the senator’s plans.

Opposition to cloture would stop the bill from advancing.

Last week CNA spoke with Sen. Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson about the senator’s amendment to the health care bill. Thompson said that Sen. Nelson would not vote for the health care bill or for cloture on the debate unless it had his amendment.

“There has to be Stupak-like language,” Thompson explained, referring to the U.S. House’s version of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment.

However, Sen. Nelson’s amendment was defeated by a 54-45 vote on Tuesday.

In a Tuesday statement, Sen. Nelson expressed disappointment at the defeat of his amendment.

“Our proposal to ensure that the Senate health care bill doesn’t open the door to public funding of abortion was reasonable. It was rational because it followed established federal policy. And it was right because taxpayers shouldn’t be required to pay for abortions,” he said.

According to Talking Points Memo, Sen. Nelson told reporters the failure of his abortion funding amendment "makes it harder to be supportive” of the Senate health care bill. He did not reiterate his pledge to filibuster the bill.

“We'll just have to see what develops,” he said. “I have no Plan B.”

Seeking information about the senator’s current plans, CNA contacted Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson again on Wednesday. Thompson said he had no comment.

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., a Pennsylvania Democrat, was a co-sponsor of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment. Before the vote on the amendment, asked the senator if he would still vote for the health care bill if the amendment were defeated.

The senator said he would not “draw a line in the sand” and added that the discussion would continue.

“This vote will give people a chance to vote on the issue, this amendment will not be determinative of where the legislation will go,” Sen. Casey remarked.

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