Pelosi nixes side votes as Stupak talks end without abortion deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Saturday that she wouldn’t allow votes on any of the side deals – including abortion – that members were seeking in exchange for their votes for healthcare legislation.

The Speaker’s decree came as discussions with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) had ended without the deal that Stupak was seeking, which was a separate vote on an “enrollment resolution” designed to force his abortion language into the healthcare bill before it was signed into law.

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Pelosi and Stupak had a five-minute conversation on the floor during a late-morning series of votes, but Pelosi spent most of her time – both on the floor and in her office – working around Stupak by meeting privately with anti-abortion Democrats that she’s hoping to peel away from Stupak and place into the “yes” column.

Three members who were pulled into the Speaker’s office include Democratic Reps. Tim Carney (Pa.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio). Driehaus and Pelosi also had a lengthy conversation on the floor.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who led a parade of pro-abortion rights Democrats into Pelosi’s office Friday night after rumors circulated that the Speaker had agreed to give Stupak a separate vote, said Saturday that she and other members of the Pro-Choice Caucus essentially gave the Speaker an ultimatum she was powerless to overrule.

“We told the Speaker that we had somewhere between 40 and 55 votes against final passage if this language was included,” DeGette said.  “But there are a lot of other issues that she’s getting pressure from people, too. So she’s got to make a rule that we’ve got to vote for this bill.”

Stupak’s allies, though, remained confident in the power of their numbers and the vote math.

“They're still short on votes,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a Stupak confederate. “Last time, we know what happened: They came at the last minute so we're continuing to work on it."

But DeGette, a chief deputy whip, cast doubt on Lipinski’s projection of “more than seven” no votes without some sort of resolution to the abortion deal.

“I don’t think that’s correct,” she said. Asked if Democrats had the votes without Stupak and his allies, DeGette replied, “I think we’re very, very close.”

Members were also anxious to continue their discussions with the White House on this issue, especially following discussion of a possible executive order that would specifically address the abortion question.

Lipinski would not rule out support of an executive action by President Barack Obama, but added, “I'll definitely have some questions about that.”

“I’ve heard that rumor, but I haven’t seen any language and I haven’t talked to the White House,” said DeGette.

But the White House has already put out a second potential fire over the formula that reimburses doctors and hospitals for Medicare services, which a group of Democrats from mainly rural districts needed to see amended to correct a “regional disparity” problem that they felt unfairly penalized their districts over more urban areas.

Lawmakers on both sides of the debate confirmed Saturday that they had reached an agreement, although the exact details were not immediately available.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), a member of the rural coalition, said the House and the administration struck a deal to address the regional disparity issue through executive order.