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Yes, They’re Going To Go Around Bart Stupak

Brian Beutler cast some doubt yesterday on the idea that Democrats were cutting off negotiations with Bart Stupak on the abortion language in the health care bill. Today, he heard from Steny Hoyer, who said, well, they’re no longer negotiating with Stupak:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters this morning that Democrats “have not discussed a third way” and that when he spoke with Stupak (D-MI) about the abortion provisions he wants in the measure, “I made it clear that I wasn’t negotiating.”

“We don’t want to go without their votes, but we do want to forge ahead, and as you know Mr. Stupak has made it very very clear that he’s very strongly in favor of achieving health care in this Congress. And I think that a lot of his colleagues feel the same way,” Hoyer said.

The majority leader said that as Congress nears a final vote it’s clear the abortion provisions Stupak wants inserted into the health care legislation can’t be addressed in the budget reconciliation bill that House Democrats need to pass.

Asked if the case was closed, Hoyer said: “We’ll have to deal with that pretty much as it is at this point in time.”

I think we can call the negotiations dead dead. Stupak will have to either affirmatively kill reform or become newly satisfied with the (not all that different) Senate language and some vague lean toward a future solution. Democrats really are acknowledging reality on this – there’s just no way to change that language, given the current circumstances.

Now the question becomes how many members Stupak has in his coalition. We know that seven are basically confirmed: Stupak, Joseph Cao, Kathy Dahlkemper, Marion Berry, Dan Lipinski, Joe Donnelly and Steve Driehaus. But wait: in an article in Congressional Quarterly (sub. reqd.), Driehaus appeared to back off a bit. Others rumored to be in the Stupak coalition hedged in the article as well. Here’s an excerpt:

Charlie Wilson , D-Ohio, who in November supported a Stupak-sponsored abortion amendment to the House-passed health care package ( HR 3962 ) and passage of the amended bill, is among those who has reconsidered his position. He said Thursday he is willing to vote for the Senate bill. Wilson said that while he would welcome any additional guarantee that no federal funds would be used to pay for abortions, he will not withhold his support if the bill is not changed.

“I’m opposed to abortion, and I think the language in there is pretty clear that it is not something that pays for abortion,” he said […]

Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said she wanted the abortion language changed, but stopped short of saying it is a deal-breaker for her. “I would not easily give over my vote for the bill” if changes are not made, she said.

An aide to James L. Oberstar , also previously thought to be in Stupak’s group, said the Minnesota Democrat is undecided. “He hasn’t ruled out anything, including voting for the Senate bill if that’s an interim step to a better compromise,” said spokesman John Schadl.

A spokesman for Steve Driehaus , an Ohio Democrat, said his boss has not changed his position opposing federal funding for abortion but had not decided how to vote. “He’ll decide how he’ll vote once he knows exactly what the House will be considering,” press secretary Tim Mulvey said in an e-mail.

This will certainly shake up my whip count. Driehaus goes back into the undecided camp, Wilson and Oberstar frankly sound like Yes votes, and Kaptur’s on the fence. Pairing that with previous hedging from Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), I think we can say that Stupak’s bloc is at least eroding, if not falling apart.

Still, I would say Stupak has a solid half-dozen members, forcing Democrats to find those votes among those who voted against the House bill back in November. It’s still anybody’s guess what will happen.

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David Dayen

David Dayen