By Molly K. Hooper and Bob Cusack - 10/28/09 10:00 AM EDT
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on Tuesday threatened that he may work with Republicans to torpedo healthcare reform unless he gets a vote to strip abortion-related provisions out of the House bill.
Stupak wants a floor vote on a measure that would prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for abortions. And in an interview on C-SPAN on Tuesday, he suggested if Democratic leaders don’t give him the vote, he’ll work with Republicans.
A motion to recommit is a parliamentary tool used by the minority in the House to kill legislation. While some Democrats occasionally vote for motions to recommit, it is unusual for Democrats to strategize with Republicans on how best to use the procedural motion.
“This has been federal law since 1976,” Stupak said, noting that President Barack Obama has vowed not to allow healthcare reform to pay for abortions.
“We have to have a vote,” he said, adding: “I don’t know why we have to change that basic principle in our law.”
Some Democrats have been irritated by Stupak’s public campaign to change the bill, something Stupak is well aware of.
“The Speaker is not happy with me,” Stupak said.
The Michigan Democrat said he will not be backing down: “I’m comfortable with where I’m at. This is who I am. It’s reflective of my district. If it costs me my seat, so be it.”
According to Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), an ardent opponent of abortion rights, Stupak is confident in the support he has within the Democratic Caucus. Stupak said he has about 40 Democrats who will vote no on healthcare reform unless Democratic leaders change their bill on the abortion language. That would be enough to take down the bill if every GOP lawmaker votes no.
Pitts said that while he has discussed the possibility of using a motion to recommit on the abortion issue with other members, he has not had that discussion with Stupak.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), assistant to the Speaker and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, acknowledged that the abortion language was one of several matters holding up a final bill.
“That’s one of a number of issues that’s being discussed, and it’s an issue that we are trying to work our way through,” Van Hollen said on Tuesday.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) indicated there has been little movement.
“We have insisted that people be allowed to have their own private dollars provide an abortion when it’s medically necessary, but they want to go much further than that,” Waxman explained.
Stupak pointed out that he and Democratic leaders have a fundamental disagreement on whether health plans that receive subsidies from the government should be allowed to provide coverage options on abortions.
The House could vote on its healthcare reform bill next week.