Hoyer contradicts Pelosi, saying abortion is ‘serious issue’ in health care debate

Jon Ward Contributor
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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the objections of a dozen House Democrats to the health-care bill over funding for abortion are “serious” and need to be resolved, contradicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has dismissed the issue.

“It is a serious issue that confronts the Congress,” Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said in his weekly off-camera session with print reporters at the Capitol.

“It has to be resolved,” Hoyer said, declining to specify how that might happen.

Hoyer said Rep. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who is the ringleader of about a dozen pro-life Democrats, has asked to speak with him about how to resolve the disagreement.

“We will talk,” Hoyer said.

The majority leader’s tone was far different than that of Pelosi, the California Democrat who has been clearly displeased on at least two occasions when asked publicly about the recalcitrant members of her caucus.

“Let me say this. This is not about abortion,” Pelosi said last week at her weekly press conference. “There is no federally funded abortion. That is the law of the land. It is not changed in this bill.”

Stupak and his fellow pro-life Democrats disagree, arguing that the ability to use federal subsidies towards the purchase of health-care plans that cover abortion is using federal funds to pay for abortion.

Stupak, in Michigan on Monday, sounded a more positive note than he did last week, saying that he was “more optimistic” this week about resolving the issue.

“Is there some language that we can agree on that hits both points — we don’t restrict, we don’t expand abortion rights? I think we can get there,” he said.

The problem is how to do so procedurally. There appears to be no way to change the language in the Senate bill, even through reconciliation.

And to pass a separate piece of legislation in the Senate changing it, separate from the reconciliation fix, would require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, which the Democrats do not have.

Hoyer said that the problem “will be resolved one way or the other.”