Amid a blizzard, Democratic senators struck a deal on healthcare, enabling Majority Leader Harry Reid to count 60 votes in favor of his bill. Talking Points Memo has a good run-down of the deal struck on abortion, which is not quite as odious as the House's restriction (which banned any plan supported in any part by federal subsidy from including abortion coverage) but still involves what sounds like a very cumbersome work-around for anyone who wants coverage. In this compromise, anyone buying insurance with federal subsidy who wants a plan that covers abortion will have to send two separate checks to the insurance company, one earmarked for the portion of the private dollars that will go to cover abortion care. As TPM puts it, "If the plan costs $1000 a month, and the insurer plans to sequester $50 to put into a pool that covers abortions, you have to make one payment of $950 and a separate payment of $50." Sen. Ben Nelson, who had been the most intractable hold-out, said he'd support this version, as did pro-choice Sens. Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray.
Whether this compromise will be palatable to Rep. Bart Stupak and others in the House who supported the more stringent restriction, we'll soon find out. As I've written before, pro-choice members of the House have said that they wouldn't have voted for the House healthcare bill had they not been assured that the Stupak amendment would be taken out in conference committee. But, then again, the pro-choice movement was also assured that the Capps compromise was what would hold in the House. Assurances, we've learned, aren't the same as a vote.