Blood On The Senate Floor: Majority Leader Drops Stupak-Pitts

The anti-choice crowd is frothing at the mouth. Yesterday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went Sweeney Todd on the Stupak-Pitts amendment, stabbed insurers with an excise tax, and threatened to go to reconciliation on the holdouts.

Senator Reid unveiled his plan last night with both fanfare and steely resolve:

Reid's plan would expand coverage to 94 percent of Americans through a government-run health insurance option - allowing states to opt out - and other features, all while reducing future federal deficits by $130 billion over the next 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released late Wednesday. [...]

But Reid's plan contains considerable differences from House legislation passed earlier this month - with a more limited public option and different ways to pay for the bill. Reid included an excise tax on insurers who offer "Cadillac" health plans, not the "millionaire's tax" that's in the House bill.

And one of the biggest differences between the bills – on language restricting federal funding for abortion – could prove problematic for Reid. His bill doesn't include as many limits as the House bill and already is drawing fire from anti-abortion activists.

On the issue of abortion, the bill makes the following provisions:

The bill grants the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to determine whether federal money is being used to fund abortions under the public plans, but doesn't ban those plans from offering the coverage. Reid's bill also explicitly requires insurers to separate private premiums from any public subsidies used to pay for that coverage to assure taxpayer dollars aren't used to fund the procedure - which is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment. [...]

There is a conscience clause that makes it perfectly acceptable for insurance companies to deny that coverage or health care providers to refuse carrying out the procedure. But the bill also requires each exchange to offer one plan that provides abortion coverage and one that doesn't - a major sticking point for critics of the original House language.

California Rep. Lois Capps, who tried to hatch a compromise on the Energy and Commerce Committee, commended Reid's language, saying, "I am pleased that the Senate has adopted a reasonable, common ground approach on this difficult question. It appears that their approach closely mirrors my language which was originally included in the House bill."

In a statement, she went on to point out that the bill "ensures that federal funds do not pay for abortions but allows continued access to this legal medical procedure."

We also have a date: Reid's version of the bill would start exchanges in 2014.

Reid, it should be noted, isn't fucking around with party holdouts.

At a special evening meeting of the Democratic caucus tonight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outlined, in broad strokes, the details of his health care bill, which the CBO has found, in a preliminary analysis, will expand coverage to 94 percent of Americans while reducing the deficit. And earlier in the day, during a separate meeting about floor procedure, Reid let three of his party's key skeptics know that if they join Republicans at any stage of the process to block the bill, he still retains the option of passing major parts of it through the filibuster proof budget reconciliation process.

In response to a question from TPMDC Nelson told reporters that, at a meeting this afternoon with Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Reid "talked about process, procedure, discussion about reconciliation and a whole host of issues of that sort."

"Nobody's really jumping up and down to push for reconciliation," Nelson said, "he's not threatening that, but anybody can conclude that if you don't move something on to the floor, that is one of the possibilities."

National Right to Life-rs are, of course, talking shit, but I'm going to ignore them in favor of reason and sanity. The real battle begins on Saturday.

Reid plan ups pressure on moderates [Politico]
Reid's restrictions on abortion [Politico]
Reid Outlines Bill For Caucus, Warns Conservative Dems That Reconciliation Is Still An Option [TPM]
National Right to Life blasts the Reid bill [Politico]