Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continued his health-care-by-the-holidays rush Saturday, and he was having some tactical success.
But Reid and the Democrats weren’t winning any friends among the broad base of voters who support reproductive rights.
In order to secure the critical 60th vote needed to advance the compromise legislation he wants to see the Senate pass before Christmas, Reid agreed to amend the legislation to include severe restrictions on access to basic health care for women.
That concession brought Senator Ben Nelson, a socially-conservative Democrat who is closely aligned with the health-insurance industry, on board — meaning that Reid should have the 60-member Democratic caucus united in time for critical votes that begin early Monday morning.
If all Democrats vote for the bill that Reid finally finished reworking on Saturday, it will clear any hurdles erected by the 40-member Republican minority.
To get Nelson’s vote, Reid had to agree to restrict the availability of abortions in insurance sold in newly created exchanges.
“I know this is hard for some of my colleagues to accept and I appreciate their right to disagree,” Nelson said of the anti-choice language. “But I would not have voted for this bill without these provisions.”
The question now is whether supporters of abortion rights can — or should — back a bill that not only disrespects but disregards a woman’s right to choose.
While President Obama made a bizarre statement Saturday about how he was “pleased that recently added amendments have made this landmark bill even stronger,” the co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus signaled deep disappointment with the Senate compromise.
“As the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, we have serious reservations about the abortion provision included in the U.S. Senate’s health care bill,” said Congresswomen Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, and Louise M. Slaughter, D-New York. “This provision is not only offensive to people who believe in choice, but it is also possibly unconstitutional. As we have maintained throughout this process, health care reform should not be misused to take away access to health care.”