House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) assured a skeptical Rachel Maddow that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) won't actually try and derail health care reform over abortion, in an interview Thursday night.
"Bart Stupak wants health care reform," Pelosi said on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. "I don't think that he himself would be one to say 'I'm taking down health care reform because of [abortion].'"
Stupak has demanded tougher restrictions on abortion coverage in the health care exchanges than the Senate bill contains, warning Democrats that he will rally his pro-life allies to scuttle the whole effort if the language isn't stiffened. But the speaker suggested his threats weren't serious and his concerns were unfounded.
"The facts are these," Pelosi said, "There is no federal funding of abortion." She alleged the congressman was nitpicking certain provisions, and insisted the bill contains "no increase or diminishment" in a woman's right to choose.
Maddow, who has spent considerable time scrutinizing and criticizing Stupak's efforts, alleged on her show Wednesday that Stupak had fewer backers for his cause than the dozen he claimed. She also noted that his demands are procedurally unattainable given the party's current strategy for passing the bill.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Democratic leaders have ended debate on the matter and decided not to pursue stronger abortion restrictions. Erica Werner wrote that "the leadership appears to be moving to call [Stupak's] bluff."
Pelosi argued the bill "will make a wonderful difference in the lives of our people" and expressed confidence that it will succeed, while declining to establish a timeline for passage of the extensively-debated health care legislation.
Reid: Reconciliation is a go
For the first time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Thursday informed his Republican counterpart in no uncertain terms that Democrats intend to use reconciliation to amend the Senate bill in the final push toward its enactment.
In a sharply worded letter that reflects the party's invigorated commitment to enacting health reform, he accused the GOP of engaging in "extraordinary legislative maneuvers" to "delay and kill" the bill, claiming the opposition was motivated by a "partisan desire to discredit Democrats."
"We will finish the job," Reid wrote to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), "and we plan to use the regular budget reconciliation process." Noting that Republicans have used the procedure "many times," he alleged that "Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class."
But the matter became complicated when anonymous GOP sources told Roll Call the Senate Parliamentarian's office informed them that a reconciliation fix will have to wait until after the bill is signed into law. If this is the case, it means the House will have to trust the Senate to eliminate some of the unpopular special deals after its enactment, which may be complex given the considerable mistrust between the two chambers.
Democrats received two boosts for the legislation on Thursday. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that it will slash the deficit by $118 billion while insuring roughly 31 million Americans over a decade, The Associated Press reported. Also, a Gallup poll found that the public strongly wants a sweeping health care overhaul, revealing that only 4 percent are satisfied with the status quo.
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast March 11, 2010.