By Daniel Malloy
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will issue an executive order related to abortion coverage in the health care bill, satisfying a bloc of anti-abortion Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who comprise the final votes to pass the bill in the House.
The vote, scheduled for tonight, appears to be no longer in doubt after Mr. Stupak's afternoon announcement. "We're well past 216," he said.
The $940 million bill will add 32 million Americans to the health insurance rolls through subsidies to buy private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid, while also imposing new restrictions on the industry.
Mr. Stupak and six colleagues -- including Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie -- negotiated the deal in which Mr. Obama will issue an order, once the bill passes, mandating that no public money fund abortions in community health centers and other areas the Stupak Seven thought were legally murky in the bill. The language could not be altered in an amendment because the changes to the Senate health bill can only deal with budgetary matters if they are to pass the upper chamber again through 51-vote reconciliation.
Major anti-abortion groups opposed the deal, saying that only a legislative fix could legally ensure that public money would not fund abortions, but Mr. Stupak and his cohorts said they were satisfied that the executive order stands on firm legal ground.
Ms. Dahlkemper said in negotiations -- including a late Saturday night session in the office of Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills -- there were plenty of lawyers around to sift through the implications of the language.
"I have not had a lot of sleep in the last week and it's been hard to sleep anyway," Ms. Dahlkemper said. "These things weigh on your mind all night long, even when you are sleeping. And this is a huge decision."
Ms. Dahlkemper, when asked if she could have voted for the bill without a fix to the abortion provisions, said she didn't want to address such hypotheticals.
"I was always optimistic we would get this done," she said.