By Jared Allen and Jeffrey Young - 03/21/10 07:33 PM EDT
Democrats have reached a deal on an executive order on abortion that could hand them a victory on healthcare.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) announced a deal at a press conference. He said the deal means Democrats will have the 216 votes they need to win a healthcare reform vote on the floor.
"We're well past 216," he said at the press conference.
nine" Democrats, including Stupak, will support the healthcare bill because of the deal, according to an anti-abortion
"We've changed [our votes]," said Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), who appeared at the press conference with Stupak.
Driehaus said he's seen the executive order and can now vote for the healthcare bill. He said Stupak has signed off, as well.
Driehaus spoke minutes before the press conference in the Speaker's Lobby.
Separately, two other undecided Democrats said they would vote for healthcare reform: Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Paul Kanjorski (Pa.).
Besides Driehaus and Stupak, other Democrats attending the press conference, who will now support the bill, were Reps. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Alan Mollohan (W.Va.) and Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.). All said they would vote for the healthcare bill.
Stupak said Rep. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who was unable to attend the press conference, will also vote yes.
That puts Democrats ever so close to the 216 votes they need to win a series of floor votes, according to The Hill's whip count.
By The Hill's count, 35 Democrats are no votes or likely no votes. Democrats can afford to lose 37 members.
Two other Democrats are undecided: Reps. Bobby Rush (Ill.) and Loretta Sanchez (Calif.).
Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he expects Rush to vote yes.
Stupak said on Fox News afterward that the executive order was a "very strong statement" that wouldn't replace statutory language -- his preference -- but acknowledged that he couldn't get such language through the Senate.
"All the safeguards we were looking for, the principle we fought for all these months, will be enforced through this exeuctive order," Stupak said. "It's a good agreement."
Stupak also stressed that fixes to the bill could be enacted between now and 2014.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), the author of the abortion language initially approved in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that Stupak's November floor amendment replaced, was also satisfied.
"I'm pleased that we seem to be getting to the end," said Capps. "I'm thankful that we're to the point where now we can concentrate on healthcare reform and we're ready to take a vote."
House Republicans responded, saying the executive order would not have the authority to implement its own abortion language.
"The law of the land trumps any Executive Order, which can be reversed or altered at the stroke of a pen by this or any subsequent President without any congressional approval or notice," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "Moreover, while an Executive Order can direct members of the executive branch, it cannot direct the private sector."
Outside groups on both sides of the abortion divide do not appear
poised to support an agreement between the two Democratic camps. The
National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops each issued statements rejecting the notion of using an
executive order as a bulwark against taxpayer dollars being used to
fund abortion services.
Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates like the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL already opposed the Senate language Obama's order would ostensibly affirm.
As the Democrats reached their agreement, Republicans enter House floor in single file, each asking for unanimous consent to revise and extend their remarks in opposition to "this flawed" healthcare bill. The Republicans can still throw their biggest roadblock later tonight with their motion to recommit.
This story was updated at 5:37 p.m.
Molly K. Hooper and Walter Alarkon contributed to this story.