AP: Stupak "more optimistic" on ObamaCare deal

Remember, the Stupak bloc voted for Pelosi’s bill in November so she wouldn’t be picking up any new votes if they made a deal this time. They’d be right around 216, still with no margin for error and plenty of fidgety Blue Dogs thinking hard about November.

But let’s face it. With the main pillar of opposition having crumbled and maybe one or two votes the difference between passage and defeat, it’d take more courage at that point to vote no than to vote yes. Gulp:

Rep. Bart Stupak said he expects to resume talks with House leaders this week in a quest for wording that would impose no new limits on abortion rights but also would not allow use of federal money for the procedure.

“I’m more optimistic than I was a week ago,” Stupak said in an interview between meetings with constituents in his northern Michigan district. He was hosting a town hall meeting Monday night at a local high school.

“The president says he doesn’t want to expand or restrict current law (on abortion). Neither do I,” Stupak said. “That’s never been our position. So is there some language that we can agree on that hits both points — we don’t restrict, we don’t expand abortion rights? I think we can get there.”

As far as I know, the only way they can fix the abortion language to Stupak’s liking would be via a separate third bill that would have to pass the House and Senate. (They can’t do it in reconciliation because abortion isn’t related to budgetary matters.) Ed is skeptical that Obama would go for that but I don’t see a problem: He’s already crapped away so much political capital on this, what’s a few ounces more? Besides, his base will be happy enough to have finally passed O-Care that they’ll tolerate a cave on abortion.

The real question is what sort of guarantee Reid and Pelosi can give to Stupak that they’ll actually take up an abortion bill later. Remember, the first thing that has to happen is the House passing Reid’s Senate bill. Everything after that is a wild card, which is why House Democrats are nervous about Reid or Obama stabbing them in the back by abandoning the reconciliation process once the Senate bill is passed. Stupak would have to worry about that plus being stabbed in the back on the promise of a separate abortion “fix.” And even if an abortion bill were introduced, they’d need 60 votes in the Senate to get it through.

If the GOP wanted to play hardball here, McConnell and Boehner could issue a statement saying that Republicans will not vote for any abortion fix later on but will instead vote “present” as a way of protesting the passage of ObamaCare. That would leave Stupak in a bind because, without Republican votes, there’s likely no way an abortion bill to his liking would pass the House or Senate. The risk is, if the GOP makes that move, then the pro-choice Democratic congressional majority could pass a law providing for abortions to be fully funded under ObamaCare, which would leave Republicans who voted “present” with some ‘splaining to do to pro-life groups. Exit question: What happens now?