The Senate Republicans have the power to stop Stupak from making a deal
Jay Cost has a fascinating but defeatist article at Real Clear Politics, “Bart Stupak has problems,” which, fortunately, misses the biggest point. Cost thinks that once the Senate bill plus the “fixer” with the Stupak language is passed by the House and sent to the Senate, the Senate Republicans will find themselves in a hopeless dilemma. They cannot stop the main bill, because the main bill can go through by reconciliation. They can only stop the Stupak fixer to the main bill. But, Cost continues, they won’t stop the Stupak fixer, because it bars federal funding for abortion, something the Republicans like. Therefore, concludes Cost,
… Senate Republicans will face the following choice: health care reform with the Stupak language or health care reform without the Stupak language.Cost’s despairing picture (which he presents in the form of two decision trees) is incorrect, because he assumes that the Republicans cannot oppose the Stupak language. But of course they can oppose it, and indeed they must oppose it if they want to stop the health care bill of which it is a part. If the Senate Republicans make a serious threat (and it has to be serious) to kill the Stupak fixer, which they have the ability to do because it needs a 60 vote supermajority, Stupak will never sign on to the bill in the House, as he will know that by doing so he will have helped pass into law a health care bill that allows federal funding for abortion. As with nuclear deterrence, the Senate Republicans will never actually have to vote against the Stupak anti-abortion language. They just have to make absolutely clear that they will vote against if it came before them.
My argument here is similar to what I said last week, in the entry, “House passage is everything—or is it?” My point then and now is that the ultimately decisive point in this process is not the House, but the Senate, since the Senate Republicans have the ability to deter undedecided House Democrats from signing on to any deal and sending it to the Senate.
Finally, I would say to Jay Cost: who cares if Bart Stupak has problems? Stupak wants to pass nationalized medicine. We want Stupak to lose. Our side is so caught up with the drama of Stupak holding out for the anti-abortion language and thus blocking the health care bill that we tend to forget that he’s on the other side. See my entry from Tuesday, “Put not thy hope in Stupak.”