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Nancy's Compromise

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This isn't just political, it's personal.

Though Speaker Pelosi may find that her compromise was all for naught, as Sen. Ben Nelson, aided by Mr. Lieberman, have drawn a line in the sand, which includes a demand that Stupak-esque language be included or he'll vote against the Senate bill.

In a warning sign for the White House, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska tells ABC News that he'll vote to block any health care bill that looks like the bill passed by the House. "Well, first of all, it has more than a robust public option, it's got a totally government-run plan, the costs are extraordinary associated with it, it increases taxes in a way that will not pass in the Senate and I could go on and on and on," Nelson said in an interview that is part of ABC News' Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. "Faced with a decision about whether or not to move a bill that is bad, I won't vote to move it," he added. "For sure."

No progressive underestimates the difficulties or the importance of getting health care legislation passed. We know compromises must be made. But having Speaker Nancy Pelosi embrace the Stupak amendment as she did on Saturday, call it Nancy's Compromise, was not only our worst nightmare. Even though she herself voted against it, she made the effort to not only deny any charges of being upset about Stupak coming to the floor for a vote, but went out of her way to take credit for making sure it happened. This was in response to a reporter's question, broadcast on C-SPAN, Pelosi rubbing salt in a fresh wound. If I hadn't heard it with my own ears while driving in D.C. I wouldn't have believed it. The New York Times grabbed the quote:

"I was part of recommending that it come to the floor," she said. "Both sides are whipping, the pro-choice side and others who want to support the amendment. But no, that was my recommendation to allow a vote on that amendment."

When you compare Speaker Pelosi's remarks to the words of women leaders after Stupak passed to become part of the House bill, Nancy's Compromise makes a mockery of any notion of "leadership."

"There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette said. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. . . . We're not going to let this into law." - Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) in Washington Post

You also have to ask why Mrs. Pelosi went out of her way to make sure the Stupak amendment succeeded.

What's come to light since late Friday night is that Pelosi had other partners in the room: United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). I've been trying to get the full story on this one since the weekend, with Jonathan Allen the first to talk about it Tuesday night on "Hardball."

"She did do one incredible political thing the other night. She had the Conference of Catholic Bishops in one room, the pro-choice lawmakers in the other room. ... On the Hill. She has two conference rooms. The Bishops showed up. Two conferences, she did shuttle diplomacy between them." - Jonathan Allen, Politico (source: "Hardball")

Incredible is one word for it.

I've not been able to confirm what Allen reported, but Chris Matthews, after a commercial break, did correct what Allen had said, saying it was representatives of the USCCB that were on Capitol Hill. Did Speaker Pelosi help facilitate the Catholic Bishops signing off on the health care bill, with their stamp of approval the inspiration for her C-SPAN preening?

The only reason religion has a place at the table is because no one has had the courage to pull the chair.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey stepped up to do just that after Nancy's Compromise passed the House and the story started to fill out:

I expect political hardball on any legislation as important as the health care bill. I just didn't expect it from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Who elected them to Congress? [...]

The role the bishops played in the pushing the Stupak amendment, which unfairly restricts access for low-income women to insurance coverage for abortions, was more than mere advocacy. [..] ... ..The IRS is less restrictive about church involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about involvement in campaigns and elections.

Given the political behavior of USCCB in this case, maybe it shouldn't be.

Rep. Laura Sanchez joined Woolsey:

Has Congress become like an episode of Mad Men? The Stupak Amendment slams women back to a time of stenographs and unsafe abortions. It represents an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women's ability to access the full range of reproductive health services to which they are lawfully entitled. It is truly disappointing to see women's reproductive rights on the table as a bargaining chip for health care reform. It is equally disappointing that the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was let in the room to bargain, then ended up writing the law.

Progressive female leaders have come forward since the storm over Stupak broke into the open, lambasting its inclusion in the House bill and demanding it be removed from any legislation going forward. Every one of them resoundingly reject Stupak, while quarantining Speaker Pelosi's statement on C-SPAN about Stupak, showing it for what it is, the worst of the worst and what progressive women will not follow.

Massachusetts A.G. Martha Coakley, who is running for the Liberal Lion's (aka Ted Kennedy) Senate seat, offered this clear statement on Stupak.

The House's vote is in many ways a significant step toward the goal of health care reform. However, I am deeply disturbed that the House adopted the Stupak/Pitts amendment, which would deny millions of women access to reproductive services. The inclusion of the Stupak/Pitts amendment violates the very intent of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for everyone. I believe that the Senate has a responsibility to fix this by eliminating the provision in whatever reform legislation moves forward.

Glenn Sargent broke the story of progressive female House members sending a letter to Speaker Pelosi. The language unambiguous and the opposite of what Pelosi said on C-SPAN:

Dear Madam Speaker:

As members of Congress we believe that women should have access to a full range of reproductive health care. Health care reform must not be misused as an opportunity to restrict women's access to reproductive health services.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment to H.R. 3962, The Affordable Healthcare for America Act, represents an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women's ability to access the full range of reproductive health servicesto which they are lawfully entitled. We will not vote for a conference report that contains language that restricts women's right to choose any further than current law.

Sam Stein and Ryan Grimm reported Sen. Boxer's statement. She said she had the votes to block Stupak, also going well beyond what Pelosi's tepid leadership, calling it a "very radical amendment," which it indeed is.

"If someone wants to offer this very radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long] compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votes to do it," Boxer said. "And I believe in our Senate we can hold it."

"It is a much more pro-choice Senate than it has been in a long time," she added. "And it is much more pro-choice than the House."

If you don't believe that, I did an interview with a new "Jane Roe," someone who explains all you need to know about the ramifications of the Stupak amendment.

And getting beyond the legislators for a moment, take a gander at what MSNBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman said on her show this week. From the video:

"Kelly, you know what I find so infuriating about this, I mean absolutely infuriating? And this is not about being pro-choice or pro-abortion or any of the hot button lingo. We know that women pay more for insurance than men. We know that women are restricted in many states and now it's basically, if you're a 50-year-old woman and you're in a monogamous relationship, but you finally find yourself pregnant, you better know that you have an abortion rider in order to access health care that you thought you had. It is one more pressure on women. I'm surprised, that frankly, there isn't more outrage over the fact... (stops a moment)... This isn't fair. ... .. A white man deciding a woman's... (she takes a deep breath) ...a woman's responsibility in her own procreation. I mean, I find it infuriating. I mean, I really think it doesn't matter what side on the abortion issue or pro-choice issue you're on, the fact that you're now making health care harder and harder for women to navigate the system. I think it's outrageous. Just outrageous."

There you go again, cranky women blowing a fuse.

Leadership means many things. What happened under Speaker Pelosi's watch in the House isn't one of them.

It's a civil rights issue. If a woman, rich or poor, doesn't have 100% control over her own body she has nothing. And for those who argue about federal funding, remember that insurance companies already get all sorts of subsidies, federally or at the state level, but insurance plans today allow full reproductive health to be covered through employers. And don't forget, Griswold came before Hyde, with Roe the law of the land.

Women already won this battle. That we're being made to re-fight this over and over again, now under a Democratic majority in Congress, with the first female Speaker of the House, and a Democratic president, is not only infuriating, but makes you conclude Democrats don't care about women anymore.

Taylor Marsh, with podcasts available on iTunes.