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60 votes

And then there were 60. A smart observer told me that the bill would come down to whether Ben Nelson, in his heart of hearts, wanted to vote for it or wanted to use his demands to kill it. It looks like he wanted to vote for it. Nelson's compromises were achievable. Abortion language stronger than what the legislation had but considerably weaker than what Bart Stupak preferred. An extra year of federal funding for the Medicaid expansion, which is probably a good thing one way or the other.

Nelson also secured a promise that his compromises would not be undone. He has been guaranteed "a limited conference between the Senate and the House." That is to say, the bill will not change much when the House gets a crack at it. That's not to say no changes can be made, but no changes can be made that Nelson -- or, for that matter, Lieberman -- doesn't like.

Alongside the compromise with Nelson, Reid released "the Manager's amendment (pdf)," a single piece of legislation that contains hundreds of amendments within it. This way, there is one big vote changing the bill rather than dozens, or even hundreds, of smaller votes. You can read the legislative language here, as I'll be doing today. More on all of this as I get details.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 19, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
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Next: The Congressional Budget Office scores the amended Senate bill


As I posted at Yglesias' place, how pathetic is it that Nelson lost the vote on his anti-abortion amendment fair and square — yet now the Senate will apply the amendment anyway, and essentially through a backroom deal!

Not to mention this is a blatant example of vote-buying.

Posted by: Former_Prospector | December 19, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Considerably weaker than Stupak? No.

It seems to be a state opt-out version of Stupak. An opt-out that many states will put into practice given the politics of abortion. And it'll be a great issue to rally the right on aborttion for the next few election cycles.

It may have been necessary to get Nelson's vote, but don't sugar coat it.

Posted by: wisewon | December 19, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

No, not only one extra year for funding of medicaid expansion. Must you lie?

Posted by: truck1 | December 19, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Vote buying? I haven't seen an announcement yet that Nebraska will get a new VA hospital, or that the National Institutes of Health will move there from Bethesda. Nelson mostly just seems to be getting his way on abortion.

The manager's amendment is 383 pages. Happy reading, Ezra!

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 19, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"Under the new abortion provisions, states can opt out of allowing plans to cover abortion in insurance exchanges the bill would set up to serve individuals who don't have employer coverage."

Immediately I thought about poor uninsured women without employer based care, who may need an abortion to save their own life: what is going to happen to them?

I hope you address this in a future post.

Posted by: silentbeep | December 19, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Vote-buying in the sense that the leadership, desperate for his vote, secured it by giving him a Medicaid bonus for his state and installing an anti-abortion amendment. The quid pro quo was so obvious.

Re: the abortion point, an anti-abortion amendment sponsored by Nelson had already been voted down 54-45. Now we basically get the amendment anyway. Talk about undemocratic!

Posted by: Former_Prospector | December 19, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, it is a done deal now. Now Pelosi is free to put the public option back in and 10 Democratic Senators will not change their votes for final passage. This process stinks. Almost 60% of the public thinks this is a bad bill; but do our duly elected representatives care? Hell, no! Nelson & Landrieu took bribes to purchase their votes to get past cloture. And, none of the House Dems will change their votes. Suck it up, America! You wanted you've got it! This is an abomination!! Vote them out in 2010 & 2012! Leave no doubt, vote them out!!

Posted by: my4653 | December 19, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

getting these 60 votes was a formidable task.
it should be entered as a new chapter in "bulfinch's mythology."

Posted by: jkaren | December 19, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I never thought at the end of this process there would be 30 million new forced customers for private insurers, that abortion rights would significantly curtailed, and that I would no longer be a Democrat. But here we are...

Posted by: bmull | December 19, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I am not even American, so I am not sure I should be meddling in this, but, anyway, just so you know, progressives everywhere are happy for you guys today.

And congratulations to Klein for being the best source of information and advocacy (two things that are hard to combine) on this topic.

Posted by: NPTO | December 19, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

"Immediately I thought about poor uninsured women without employer based care, who may need an abortion to save their own life: what is going to happen to them?"

I'm not usually one for saying that Problem X should be handled by charities rather than the government, because usually the scale of the problem is too big for charities to make more than a small dent in it.

But this may actually be an exception.

Let's say that 5% of the 1.3 million abortions performed annually in America are both (a) performed for reasons of medical necessity, and (b) performed on women who can't pay for the abortion on their own dime.

That 5%, which would be 65,000 abortions a year, would be way high.

Now let's say the cost of the typical abortion is $500. It would cost $32,500,000 annually to pay for 65,000 abortions.

That is an amount that could almost certainly be raised by us lefties and pro-choice types from other parts of the political spectrum. Hell, NARAL raised $6.4 million all by itself in 2007, according to their form 990.

Sure, some of the abortions would be a lot more expensive than this. But the 65,000 figure is way high, like I said, so it has to at least balance out. I'd be willing to bet that the actual amount needed would be much smaller, actually.

Seriously, if we want to ensure that lack of money will never keep a woman from having a medically necessary abortion, we can do this.

Posted by: rt42 | December 20, 2009 5:49 AM | Report abuse

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