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The Ghost of Jesse Helms Haunts Health Care Debate [View All]

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WilliamPitt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-13-09 04:32 PM
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The Ghost of Jesse Helms Haunts Health Care Debate
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(Image: Jared Rodriguez / truthout; Adapting: U.S. Congress, NewsHour)

The Ghost of Jesse Helms Haunts Health Care Debate
By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Friday 13 November 2009

Here we go again.

Whenever conservative stalwart Jesse Helms didn't like something in a bill, he would pull out an abortion amendment to slow things down. Helms is dead and gone but the tactic is alive and well and may just kill health care reform.

On the Senate side, the hurdle is the public option. For 30 years, Jesse Helms, the former senator from North Carolina, was the biggest thorn in the Democrats' side. Now that title goes to the senator that many call "Traitor Joe" Lieberman.

While many Democrats were declaring victory last Saturday night with the passage of a health care reform bill, Republicans, too, had a victory of sorts. They may have successfully passed the "poison pill" that will kill health care reform down the road.

One of the culprits this time was Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan). He co-sponsored an amendment to the health care bill with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania). The amendment would require women to buy separate "riders" to cover abortions, even if they otherwise paid for a full insurance plan. Even before the amendment was voted on, the Democratic leadership was signaling that there was no reason for alarm; if the amendment passes, it won't survive conference with the Senate was the spin.

So, the amendment passed with the help of dozens of Democrats; later in the night, the full bill passed 220-215. After the euphoria settled, a stark realization set in for many supporters of health care reform. The margin of victory was not large enough to guarantee final passage if the bill comes back from conference without the abortion amendment. So, the question in the House is did the Democratic leadership make a huge blunder when they allowed the Stupak amendment a vote on the floor?

There wasn't time to see what the real impact of the Stupak amendment will be. Groups like the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) are cranking up efforts against the amendment. Which raises another question: If the amendment remains in the bill, will Democrats be pressured by their base to oppose the conference report?

Either way, with or without the abortion amendment, the bill is in trouble. Jesse Helms would be proud of Stupak and Pitts.

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