It's common knowledge that House Democrats couldn't pass their health reform package without the addition of a provision on abortion--offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)--but what's less certain is how many votes that provision gained for the bill. Some have speculated that it earned 40 votes to put the bill over the 218 mark, the number needed for passage. But House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) says it was far fewer--that the compromise over abortion only yielded 10 additional votes.
"It was not 40 votes that we were trying to get with this amendment, it was 10 votes, and that's the fact," Clyburn said today on MSNBC, during an interview with Andrea Mitchell. "This language took us across the threshold of 218, but it was 10 people, it wasn't 40 people as has been reported...
"Without that language, we were around 212, 214," Clyburn said,
Stupak's abortion language is an extremely controversial one for pro-choice Democrats, as it prevents private health insurers participating in an exchange--a forum for individuals to shop for health insurance--from covering abortion, as well as preventing abortion from being covered under plans purchased with the help of government subsidies.
Critics say this would create a class divide, with wealthy women who don't need subsidies (or an exchange) able to get abortions, while poor and working-class women would have to pay out of pocket. 40 pro-choice Democrats, led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) have signed a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledging they will vote "no" on the final package if it contains the provision.
But, with a two-vote cushion (the bill passed with 220 votes), a 10-vote gap appears far more surmountable than a 40-vote gap--which suggests that some sort of compromise language on abortions could be worked out if/when the House bill gets merged with a Senate version by a conference committee of lawmakers from each chamber.