Senator Barbara Boxer isn't playing around. Laying out a logical case against Ben Nelson's amendment - which is really Stupak 2.0 - she blows off all the discussion of riders in favor of real talk on gender discrimination and privacy.
BOXER: There's nothing in this amendment that says if a man some days wants to buy Viagra, for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider. I wouldn't support that. And they shouldn't support going after a woman using her own private funds for her reproductive health care. Is it fair to say to a man you're going to have to buy a rider to buy Viagra and this will be public information that could be accessed? No, I don't support that. I support a man's privacy, just as I support a woman's privacy.
That was all well and good, and fitting for a Congressperson. But you know what she really wanted to say was, "It Ain't None Your Business!"
What' s the matter with your life? /Why you gotta mess with mine? /Don't keep sweatin' what I do/'Cause I'm gonna be just fine!
Can we formally vote to make this the pro-choice anthem? Just saying.
At any rate, Senator Nelson of Nebraska seems to want to make it his business to keep bringing up old stuff. The Guttmacher Institute did a comparison of Stupak-Pitts and Nelson's Amendment and confirms what we all knew going in - the bills are the same shit, different day:
"As with Stupak-Pitts, this amendment would restrict abortion coverage well beyond the status quo and could have profound implications even for coverage in the private market, paid for with private funds," emails Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate of the Guttmacher Institute. "It also, like the Stupak-Pitts amendment, takes what had been even-handed language respecting and protecting the conscience of providers on both sides of the abortion divide and turns it into biased language that allows for discrimination against health care providers willing to provide or refer for abortions."
Amy Sullivan of Time is letting Nelson have it over at Swampland:
What is it about those Nebraska governors-turned-senators? Did they not get enough attention as children? Do they chafe at being told they hail from a "flyover" state? Does that unicameral legislature leave too few adoring supporters? Bob Kerrey was infamous for waiting until the verrrrrry last moment to make up his mind on important pieces of legislation, waiting until he'd been courted and wheedled and begged. And now it appears Ben Nelson is looking to make himself similarly indispensable to the Democratic effort to pass health reform legislation.
So what happens when the Nelson amendment fails? Last week, Nelson was threatening to filibuster health reform if his abortion language was not included, but he's since walked that back. Even a Nebraska attention-seeker can only go so far, after all. Democratic leaders have said they're working on other compromises to win Nelson's support for the final bill, but it's unclear that he was ever willing to vote for health reform, even if his amendment were to pass. And other pro-life Democrats—like Bob Casey, who is a co-sponsor of Nelson's amendment—have not said the issue will determine their vote.
Casey has talked about introducing parts of his Pregnant Women Support Act in order to insure that the bill contains measures to reduce abortion rates. But such a move would be almost entirely for his own comfort, and not to bring more pro-life senators aboard or placate the Catholic hierarchy. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' secretariat of pro-life activities, told the Wall Street Journal over the weekend that compromise in the wake of a defeat of the Nelson amendment was "not a negotiation we're prepared to have," adding, "I really don't know how you compromise further."
Another factor arguing against additional abortion amendments is the fact that if Reid cannot count on Nelson to get to 60 votes, he will have to pin his hopes on Olympia Snowe, a strong supporter of abortion rights. Snowe's main stated concern about health reform is the public option. But stronger abortion restrictions would only make her less likely to sign on to be that crucial last vote to pass reform. Which is why as of Monday night, Democratic leaders were much busier crafting a public option compromise than worrying about abortion negotiations.
Speaking of the public option compromise, some of the initial news is in: Senators are backing away from a public option and instead are looking at expanding the scope of existing programs.
After five days of intensive talks among five moderates and five liberals, the outlines of a compromise aimed at appeasing both ends of the Democratic political spectrum were emerging: a plan designed to expand insurance coverage without creating a new government-run program.
Under the compromise, the public option would be removed from the bill and replaced with a new government-administered national insurance plan similar to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, which serves members of Congress and federal workers.
To sweeten the deal for liberals, people 55 and older would be able to "buy-in" to Medicare and purchase coverage in the popular government program for the elderly. Liberal Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia have been pushing the idea for years.
It's currently unclear how much this plan would help, particularly considering what passes as an increase:
The negotiating group is also looking to expand Medicaid to cover people with incomes 150 percent above the poverty line, up from 133 percent under the Senate bill, and to impose stronger regulations on private insurers.
This doesn't seem to be good enough for Republicans, who trying to throw monkey wrenches into the process however, and whenever, they can. When Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor yesterday comparing the stalwart stance of the GOP to the opponents to abolishing slavery, desegregation, and suffrage for women, the GOP complained they were being smeared.
Then, RNC chair Michael Steele sent a message to Obama to "delay" health care reform, saying:
"Congress can't afford to throw the American people further in debt now and splurge on a risky health care bill when we may need all the resources at our disposal next year to rebuild a sagging economy," Steele wrote in a letter than will be sent to the White House on Tuesday.
"We are asking you to delay your efforts to push your health care bill through Congress by the end of the year," Steele continued. "Until we are sure job creation has begun in earnest, we should put aside our differences on health care. We should watch our spending. We've got an economy to rebuild and restore."
Funny that Steele's pronouncment comes as the health care reform process is inching toward a close. That argument may have had a shot before the townhall meetings, and before the Republicans allowed fear-mongering to define their talking points on health care reform. Now, it just seems like too little, too late.
Boxer's message to men who support abortion riders: How would you like it if we singled out Viagara? [Think Progress]
Guttmacher: Nelson Abortion Amendment Virtually Identical To Stupak [TPM]
The Health Reform Abortion Wars, Part Deux [Time]
Public option compromise takes shape [Politico]
GOP erupts over Reid slavery, segregation remarks [Politico]
Michael Steele to President Obama: Delay health care [Politico]