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AARP to Score Cloture Vote on HCR; Will NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood Counter?

AARP has announced that their organization will ‘score’ the cloture vote on the Manager’s Amendment on health care ‘reform’ as a Key Vote, informing their members how Senators voted when the election comes around. Of course, AARP favors the Manager’s Amendment, which includes the odious forced-birth Nelson language that has led NOW, NARAL/Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood to come out against the bill.

Notorious for allowing Senators to slide on cloture votes in the past, will these organizations put their considerable muscle behind their opposition and announce they plan to ‘score’ votes on cloture as well as the bill itself?

First, AARP (letter at link):

In a letter to all senators, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond says the Monday 1 a.m. cloture vote will be among those the group tells members about when the next election rolls around.

They also are doing a new ad campaign that focuses on older Americans. It will run through Wednesday in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and North Dakota, states that are home to key Democratic senators and one Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

And here’s part of the NOW announcement, with no mention of whether they’ll score health care or the cloture vote:

The National Organization for Women is outraged that Senate leadership would cave in to Sen. Ben Nelson, offering a compromise that amounts to a Stupak-like ban on insurance coverage for abortion care. Right-wing ideologues like Nelson and the Catholic Bishops may not understand this, but abortion is health care. And health care reform is not true reform if it denies women coverage for the full range of reproductive health services.

We call on all senators who consider themselves friends of women’s rights to reject the Manager’s Amendment, and if it remains, to defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation.

Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL/Pro-Choice America, had this to say, but was also mute on scoring or the cloture vote itself:

"It is outrageous that, two weeks after pro-choice Americans came to Capitol Hill united against the egregious Stupak-Pitts amendment, the Senate has succumbed to including further anti-choice language in its bill. While the Senate bill does not include the Stupak-Pitts provision, this new language is unacceptable. It is inexplicable that a bill seeking to expand health coverage for Americans would impose such great administrative burdens on women who purchase abortion coverage and plans that offer it.

"At every turn, our standard has been consistent and clear: Women should not lose ground in the new health-care system. The bill does include other provisions that will improve women’s access to reproductive-health services significantly. However, the language regarding abortion coverage comes at too high a price for reproductive health. Thus, we must oppose this new Nelson language. And NARAL Pro-Choice America withholds support from the overall health-reform legislation until we assess the totality of provisions in the final bill that comes out of a conference committee between the House and Senate.

Finally, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood issued this statement, which was also silent on how her organization would score a vote, and whether they’ll score the cloture vote as well:

"As many members of Congress and the president believe, Planned Parenthood does not think that health care reform is the forum to litigate abortion policy. Unfortunately, opponents continue to use abortion as a political wedge at every step of the reform process.

"There is no policy reason for this action, it is simply a political maneuver. We understand that leaders in the Senate and the White House want to move the process forward, but given this provision, we have no choice but to oppose the Senate bill. Planned Parenthood will now work with leaders to fix the abortion coverage language in conference."

These organizations need to understand that the progressive base understands cloture, and scoring for their handy scorecards published at election time. Thankfully, AARP has now brought cloture scoring front and center in the debate. It’s not enough to say you’ll oppose the bill and hope to fix it in conference, especially if both conferring Houses of Congress have passed draconian forced-birth language.

Banning federal funds for women’s health services ensures the continued financial health of these three organizations. If the fight goes on, so do they. Unless they announce, and quickly, that they will downgrade their ratings on any Senators who vote for cloture AND the Manager’s Amendment, their opposition means nothing.

Will Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Stabenow, McCaskill, Murray, Cantwell, Gillibrand, and the Mainers go against these women’s rights organizations if they know their vote will result in a downgrade on their pro-choice efforts? More importantly, will these organizations put their incumbent allies in a position to choose between a downgraded rating on an Election Day scorecard and the leadership’s need for all 60 votes?

Speak up, ladies: time’s running out.

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Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge