If you've been following the announcements coming out about the healthcare debate over the past two days they have certainly included some mixed messages. A couple of days ago I received an email from PDA (Progressive Democrats of America) excited that Speaker Pelosi was going to allow a 20 minute floor debate on Rep. Weiner's single-payer amendment followed by an up-or-down vote. We were encouraged to put together action plans for our readers.
From the email:
Last night PDA got word from Congressman Weiner’s office that Speaker Pelosi is keeping her promise to allow the Weiner single-payer amendment full debate and vote on the floor of the House. This will happen on Friday or Saturday.
After nearly being shut out of the discussion completely, single-payer Medicare for All is being heard in the corridors of power. This is the one opportunity for your Congress member to go on record as supporting the only universal, comprehensive, cost-effective solution to the health care crisis. [original emphasis]
Yesterday, we received an update telling us the floor vote had been cancelled and to stop calling our representatives immediately.
Early this morning, we learned that Rep. Weiner pulled his amendment and that there will be no vote on Medicare for All.
Please, do not make any further calls to Congress asking members to support the Weiner amendment. [original emphasis]
Look for an email from the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Healthcare later today explaining this sudden development.
The Leadership Conference indeed followed up with an explanation.
On the eve of what could have been the first vote on single-payer legislation in our nation’s history, because of last minute developments, the vote and debate on Congressman Weiner’s single-payer amendment will not happen. Speaker Pelosi received a statement from Rep. Kucinich and Rep. Conyers, the co-authors of HR 676, that they do not think that this is the right time for a vote on national single-payer legislation. They made this statement despite the extensive mobilization in support of this vote across the country. In addition, Speaker Pelosi felt that offering a single-payer amendment would open the floodgates to amendments proposed to limit abortion funds, restrict immigrant access to health care and other regressive legislation.
That explanation falls more than a bit short now that we find out that those floodgates were opened anyway and there will now be an up-or-down floor vote on an amendment to ban abortion funding.
House Democratic leaders will allow an up-or-down vote on an amendment blocking any money in its healthcare overhaul from funding abortions, risking the votes of members who support abortion rights.
Anti-abortion Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) had told a bleary-eyed Rules committee panel that a deal struck earlier in the day to move forward on the issue was off.
According to The Hill article (using common sense works here as well) liberal Democrats may not support the healthcare bill if it includes the block on abortion funding.
I'm sure there is some special reason why a progressive amendment was pulled and a conservative amendment is being allowed. Maybe House Leadership feared that too many Representatives would prefer the single payer plan casting doubt on the strength of the current bill. Maybe House Leadership thinks that some moderate Democrats who plan to vote against the healthcare bill will vote against the abortion block amendment taking a little of the heat off. Whatever the reason, conservatives are getting their vote and progressives have been shut down.