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Will Stupak and the Catholic Bishops Kill Health-Care Reform?

The outcome of the battle for health-care reform may rest on the say-so of one man, Rep. Bart Stupak. But he's got an army of Catholic bishops pulling his strings.

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The budget reconciliation process is designed specifically for measures that directly affect the federal budget. Abortion coverage in the health-care reform bill would not. In order to "fix" the Senate bill to Stupak's liking, the Senate parliamentarian would have to make an exception to that rule, and in so doing would open up a whole new can of worms. If abortion is game for an exception to what is known as the Byrd rule, then why not the public option? (Really, why not?) If a Senator tries to add the abortion language into the reconciliation process and the parliamentarian objects, then 60 votes will be needed to override the parliamentarian's point of order -- a very tall order to fill.

But the bishops have promised to do everything they can to help with that little problem. Here's what one of the bishops' chief lobbyists told Politico last week:

“We would strongly urge everyone, Democratic and Republican, to vote to waive the point of order,” Richard Doerflinger, an associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told POLITICO. “Whether it would be enough to get to 60 votes, I can’t predict. We would certainly try.”

So, who do the bishops represent? "It's obvious that Catholics -- Catholics in the pews -- have never supported the sexual and reproductive-health views that the bishops actually hold," says CFC President Jon O'Brien. So, when the bishops are lobbying on Capitol Hill, who are they lobbying on behalf of? They're lobbying on behalf of the 350 [members] of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops."
On Tuesday, Stupak told the Associated Press that he is optimistic he will get his deal on the Senate bill. If that happens, the winners will be 350 celibate men. The losers? Millions of American women.





Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.