In the Senate, only one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted for either of two committee bills now being merged by Democratic majority leader Harry Reid. But she has since backed off her support over objections to a proposed public option.
To carry the momentum forward, Democrats must close rifts in their own ranks. One point of contention: a fragile, 11th-hour agreement with some 40 social conservatives to exclude public funding of abortions. The amendment passed, 240 to 197, with 64 Democrats voting with Republicans on the measure.
The agreement, which would require women to secure a separate policy to cover abortion costs, riled many Democrats in the liberal and progressive wing of the caucus – and is not expected to pass in the Senate.
“No woman plans an unplanned pregnancy,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) of Illinois during debate over the antiabortion amendment on the floor of the House. “This amendment is a disservice and an insult to millions of women in this country.”
The vote reopened what has been a major fault line in congressional politics. “This is one of the most significant pro-life votes since Roe v. Wade,” said Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council, after the vote.