President Obama in a rare interview appearance on Fox News this week said language used in the pro-life Stupak amendment in the House health care bill is not balanced.
Fox correspondent Major Garrett asked Obama during an interview that aired Wednesday night if he would sign a health care bill that included the Stupak language.
Obama initially gave a long-winded response saying, “I think there is a balance to be achieved that is consistent with the Hyde amendment – what existed before we reformed health care."
“I believe in the basic idea that federal dollars shouldn’t pay for abortions,” he continued. “But I also think we shouldn’t restrict women’s choices, so, I think there’s some negotiations going on, not just on the Democratic side, but I think among people of good will on both sides, to see if we can arrive at something that meets that criteria and I’m confident we can do that.”
Garrett then pressed Obama for a yes or no answer on if he thought the Stupak language “strike that balance.”
“Not yet,” Obama said.
The Stupak amendment was added at the last minute to the House version of the health care bill. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) introduced the measure that bars the use of federal funding for “any health plan [public or private] that includes coverage of abortion,” except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the woman’s life.
Though pro-life supporters cheered the inclusion of the amendment, they feared that the Senate would remove the language in its version.
True to their fear, the Senate version of health reform, unveiled Wednesday, did not include language comparable to the Stupak amendment. In its place was language that the National Right to Life Committee called “completely unacceptable.” NRLC said the Senate bill’s language would lead to coverage of abortion on demand.
Three Democratic senators said they would like to have Stupak language in the Senate version of health reform. But the senators said they will still vote Saturday to move the reform bill to the floor for debate despite not agreeing with everything in it. The three senators’ votes give the Democrats the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster.
"Throughout my Senate career, I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct,” explained Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in a statement Friday. "That's what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about. It is not for or against the new Senate health care bill released Wednesday. It is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements. If you don't like a bill, why block your own opportunity to amend it?"
While it is too early to know if the pro-life Stupak amendment will be included in the final version of the health care bill, a White House official has indicated that the Obama administration is working with members of Congress to remove it.
In a CNN “State of the Union” appearance Nov. 15, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said the Stupak amendment changes the “status quo” on abortion insurance coverage.
"The president has said repeatedly, and he said in his speech to Congress, that he doesn't believe that this bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion," Axelrod said. "This shouldn't be a debate about abortion. And he's going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed ... I believe that there are discussions ongoing to how to adjust it accordingly."
Axelrod did not say whether Obama would veto the bill if it contained Stupak language.
Debate on the Senate health care bill is expected to begin next week.