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Health reform now in Senate hands

The bill passed by the House includes a public option, but prohibits any coverage for abortion, even within the proposed health exchange, when a patient is buying with a subsidy.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

As expected, the House passed a version of health reform on Saturday, 220-215, with Louisiana Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao (right) joining the Democrats.

Cao was elected unexpectedly last year to replace the indicted William Jefferson, who was later convicted of bribery. His majority-black district is heavily Democratic, thus he was torn between loyalty to party and the desires of constituents.

He chose self-preservation while sitting between Republican leaders who were leaning on him to make their opposition unanimous, making his choice known after the 218 majority had been achieved.

Cao's support was mostly symbolic. This is a Democratic bill, just as the Senate Finance Committee bill endorsed by Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine is a Democratic bill. But any break in Republican unity is seen by Democrats as a big deal.

The bill passed by the House includes a public option, but prohibits any coverage for abortion, even within the proposed health exchange, when a patient is buying with a subsidy. This provision was added to the bill through an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who said conservative Democrats would not vote for the bill without it.

Cao, a Catholic and former seminarian, credited the Stupak Amendment with securing his vote.

All this goes to the Senate, which appears to lack the votes to beat a filibuster on a leadership bill containing the public option.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated his body may not pass a bill until next year, after which both Houses will hold a conference to come up with a single bill both must then pass without amendment before the President can sign it.

So the show goes on.

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