Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the leader of an embattled blue dog contingent that continues to oppose healthcare reform because of pro-abortion language in the Senate bill, warned Friday afternoon that Democrats are proposing "a drastic break" from the longstanding agreement that taxpayer dollars should not defray the cost of abortions.
Stupak also denied that a deal is in the works to persuade Democrats opposed to the pro-abortion verbiage to drop their objections and support Obamacare.
The Michigan congressman did say he has proposed a concurrent resolution, which he calls "an enrollment corrections bill," that would modify the abortion provisions language to make it more palatable to his caucus. But he has received no indication that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats are willing to go along with the adjustment.
Sources on Capitol Hill say Democratic leaders are trying to round up the votes they need without cutting a deal with Democrats opposed to the abortion language in the bill.
"This is a drastic break from the current law for the last 33 years, [which] says you don't have abortion as a benefit, you don't pay for insurance policies with abortion in it, and you don't pay for plans that administer abortion coverage," Stupak told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell.
O'Donnell took the congressman to task, quoting an Associated Press analysis of the bill published Friday that stated in part: "No health plan would be required to offer coverage for abortion. In plans that do cover abortion, policyholders would have to pay for it separately, and that money would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. States could ban abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange."
In response, Stupak directed researchers to peruse pages 237 and 2,071 of the Senate bill that members of the House have been asked to approve.
"Read it and you will see. No. 1, it says at least one policy — it could be nine or 10 policies — must have abortion in it. Secondly, the federal government will give refundable tax credits to pay for the policy. This isn't a tax deduction. This is a refund to pay for the coverage that has abortion in it," he said.
Stupak said it is possible he would vote in favor of Obamacare if his resolution on the abortion terminology were accepted. But he added, "They have bigger problems with this bill than just the abortion language."
"We believe abortion is a benefit that would be covered in this legislation," he said. "It would then be covered by the federal government [which] would pay for insurance policies that would pay for abortion. . . it's completely wrong."
Also Friday, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., dismissed the accuracy of the CBO's projections that the legislation would trim $130 billion from the federal deficit over the next decade.
Pence pointed out that the preliminary estimate doesn't mention a $250 billion "doctor's fix" that he says is due to make up losses for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Congress defeated a bill to pay the "doc fix" money late last year, but knows it must make the payments in order to support Medicare treatment programs.
That item alone, Pence told MSNBC, "puts a lie to any suggestion this bill is deficit neutral, let alone [provides] savings.
Pence reiterated his recent claim that "only in Washington, D.C., can you spend a trillion dollars and say you're saving money for taxpayers."
Meanwhile, The Washington Post pointed out in an editorial Friday that CBO estimates are not necessarily a good predictor of reality.
"The CBO's rules require it to accept that Congress will do what it says it is going to do. Experience suggests that is not always the case — especially with powerful constituencies such as seniors and health-care providers pressuring lawmakers. Meanwhile, the revenue lost from the reduced and postponed excise tax will be made up with a new Medicare payroll tax on wealthy taxpayers' unearned income," the editorial stated.
The Post offered a tepid endorsement of the legislation the House is expected to vote on Sunday, calling the measure "maddeningly imperfect," "a huge gamble," and "fraught with risk."
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