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Brown: Not Even 50 Votes for Abortion Amendment

With abortion now topic-of-the-moment amid the health reform debate, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) weighed in last night with a prediction certain to please women’s rights groups: Republicans, the Ohio Democrat said, won’t be able to rally even 50 votes — let alone the 60 they’ll need — to pass an amendment restricting abortion coverage on the exchange. The Hill reports:

“I don’t think that it’s a threat at all,” Brown said Monday night during an appearance on MSNBC. “There aren’t more than four or five Democratic senators that I would say are anti-choice. There are at least, I think, two Republican senators who are pro-choice.”

“Again, on an up or down vote — Harry Reid’s not going to put the Stupak language in the bill, I’d be certain,” Brown added. “Then the Republicans will try to amend it into the bill, and they will be unsuccessful; they won’t even get close to 50 votes.”

The “Stupak language” is reference to an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) explicitly prohibiting exchange plans from covering abortions, even in cases when patients’ premiums are set aside for that purpose. Pro-choice House Democratic leaders were forced to include the provision in order to pass their health reform bill earlier this month, but liberal lawmakers are vowing to kill the reform bill if the language remains.

If Brown is right, then the collision between the House bill with the Stupak language and the Senate bill without it would take place during the conference negotiations between yet-unnamed leaders of both chambers.

On a great number of bills, it’s the Senate that’s been the bottleneck in recent years. It’s worth noting, though, that it was an abortion amendment that killed last year’s attempt to improve the Native American health care system — a bill that passed the Senate, but was never taken up in the House for the recognition that the abortion provision would likely survive.

Having invested so much time and political capital in health reform this year, Democrats won’t have the same option of simple abandonment. Instead, they’re likely going to have to come up with some delicately nuanced Stupak compromise.

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