From Congress Daily:
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said today he is crafting an amendment to prohibit federal funding of abortions that will be the same as the controversial proposal added at the last minute to the House healthcare overhaul bill.
"It's as identical to Stupak as it can be," Nelson said, referencing the amendment drafted by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.
Democrats and Republicans have expressed interest in supporting the amendment as part of the healthcare overhaul debate in the Senate, he said.
Sen. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., said today he will support Nelson's effort.
"I think it's likely to be one of the amendments we'll vote on," Casey said
Neither Casey nor Nelson knew when that vote might come. Casey noted he is unsure whether the amendment has the votes to pass or whether it would have to meet a 60-vote threshold or a simple majority. But he added he is not drawing lines in the sand if it is not approved.
Just when any amendments will come up for votes was unclear. A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Reid said at presstime there was no time agreement with Republicans.
Stupak's abortion amendment prohibits any public option from covering abortions. The prohibition would also apply to private plans offered through an exchange in which individuals can purchase coverage in part using federal subsidies.
The Senate bill attempts to maintain the prohibition on federal abortion funding by requiring insurance companies to segregate subsidy dollars and use other revenue to cover abortions. It also requires HHS to determine if and how any public option would cover abortions.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said today that White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and Deputy Director Jeanne Lambrew agreed Monday to provide her with actuarial estimates of cost-containment amendments she plans to propose. One of those amendments, Collins said, would impose a penalty on reimbursements to hospitals that have high infection rates.
She said the bill still needs substantial changes to win her vote. "I certainly hope that will be possible," she added. "I think there's unease on both sides of the aisle about specific provisions of this bill and that it's possible that we can come up with alternatives that will garner bipartisan support."
Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said today he plans to file his amendment to repeal the health insurance and medical malpractice insurance industries' exemption from federal antitrust laws. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said he would join Leahy in offering the amendment.
Lieberman said today he is encouraged by a CBO report Monday that estimates the majority of Americans' health insurance premiums would go down or remain untouched under the legislation.
"I was concerned about the impact. ... I was worried that some of the taxes, for instance, and maybe some cost-shifting might increase premiums more, but the report shows, and you've got to accept CBO ... that most people will see their premiums either stay where they would otherwise be or be reduced. And I think when you consider the fact that Senator Reid's proposal covers 30 million more people with insurance than are covered now, it's quite an accomplishment to be able to do that without raising premiums," he said.
Lieberman said he has not changed his opposition to the public option.
"Matter of fact, it strengthens my position, because my feeling is that the public option doesn't support any of the major goals that we've always, I've always, had for healthcare reform: cover more people. ... long-term cost containment, better cost containment and adopt some consumer friendly reforms of insurance industry practices," he said.