Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

U.S. Senate defeats Ben Nelson's anti-choice amendment to healthcare reform bill

Good news from the District of Columbia: The U.S. Senate has just voted fifty four to forty five to table an amendment offered by Ben Nelson of Nebraska that would have inserted Stupak-Pitts language into the Senate's version of the healthcare reform bill. The motion's passage basically means that Nelson has been defeated.

(Stupak-Pitts is the anti-choice amendment that got into the House version of the healthcare bill thanks to Republicans and Blue Dogs. The amendment has become best known as simply "Stupak", after its sponsor, Democrat Bart Stupak, who has used disingenuous arguments to defend it.)

The vote for and against the motion was bipartisan. Maine's two Republican senators voted aye on the motion to table, while Democrats Evan Bayh (of Indiana), Bob Casey (of Pennsylvania), Kent Conrad (of North Dakota), Brian Dorgan (of North Dakota), Mark Pryor (of Arkansas), Ted Kaufman (of Delaware) and Nelson himself voted nay.

Senators from the Pacific Northwest were strictly divided on party lines, with Murray, Cantwell, Merkley, Wyden, Begich, Tester, and Baucus voting aye while Crapo, Risch, and Murkowski voted nay.

Of the Democrats who defected, Kaufman was perhaps the most surprising. (He is Joe Biden's successor, but will be leaving the chamber at the end of 2010 when the state picks a new U.S. Senator).

It's good to know that the Stupak-Pitts amendment won't be in the Senate's version of the healthcare bill. But since the language is in the House version, there is still the danger that it could be reconciled into the final bill when the two versions are merged. That would be a travesty. Democratic negotiators must ensure that language is removed in conference so that healthcare reform does not have the costly side effect of rolling back a woman's right to choose.


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