Pelosi says abortion, immigration not central to health bill
By Jordan Fabian
The Hill (Washington, DC), March 2, 2010
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that abortion and immigration are not central to the Democrats' healthcare reform overhaul, even though the issues have served as sticking points for some in her caucus.
Pelosi said that the primary purpose of the bill was to expand healthcare coverage, but some anti-abortion rights lawmakers have said they may not support legislation moving forward because they fear the first part of the president's healthcare plan could allow federal funding for abortions.
Here is the exchange from Pelosi's press conference Tuesday afternoon:
PELOSI: Under the budget resolution you can only take up issues that are central to the budget. None of these issues..are dealt with in the budget.
Neither of these issues is central to the bill. This is not an immigration bill, this is not an abortion bill. It is a bill that would provide more healthcare for all Americans.
QUESTION: Is that your message to your Democrats? That these issues are not central to the bill? Because they are in the Senate bill.
PELOSI: They are not central to the budget. That's what I just said. In order to be part of the budget bill, it has to be central to the budget….It's a very strict rule.
Pelosi's remarks come a day before President Barack Obama is set to unveil the second portion of his correction to healthcare reform legislation that's been passed through Congress. Pelosi's comments could be an attempt to put attention on the overall purpose of the overhaul effort as Congress prepares to move forward.
But both issues have not gone away. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who amended the House's healthcare bill with strict abortion language, last week threatened to hold up reform legislation if the final package adheres to the Senate's abortion language, which is less restrictive than the House's bill.
President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders have also stressed that passing the overall reform bill is the most important aspect of the effort.
Pro-immigration reform lawmakers, on the other hand, favor the House bill more than the Senate bill because the Senate bill bars illegal immigrants from buying insurance off the exchange with their own money. Some have objected to the House bill's abortion language, but none have threatened to hold up the overall legislation.
Pelosi has said that both the Senate bill and the House bill bar federal funding for abortions. But she included Stupak's amendment in the original House bill in order to win the votes of anti-abortion rights Democrats.
The president's original proposal, though, backs the Senate's abortion language.
As Pelosi noted, neither issue can be fixed under the reconciliation process because they do not apply directly to spending or taxation.