Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catholic Bishops Turn Their Sights to Senate Bill

Following success on the House health care bill, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops now intends to exert equal influence during the Senate debate.

-- From "Bishops search for Senate sponsor" by Jeanne Cummings, Politico 11/23/09

Roman Catholic bishops have yet to find a senator willing to sponsor their amendment for a tougher ban on use of taxpayer money for abortion coverage in the Senate health care reform bill.

Among the senators under intense pressure is Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a Catholic and high-profile opponent of abortion rights.

Over the weekend, Casey said “more work” needs to be done to improve the Senate abortion coverage wording.

Church leaders are urging defeat of the [health care] reform measure if the abortion insurance provision [currently in the Senate bill] isn’t changed.

But even if they get what they want, the bishops are unlikely to officially endorse the final package, something that could make lawmakers more accommodating.
According to John Carr, head of the conference’s Justice, Peace and Human Development Office, the bishops typically do not endorse large reform legislation because of their complexity. “We rarely endorse 2,000-page bills,” he said.

But, Carr said, the bishops are holding out one prize: an open letter from the conference to the Senate, saying “very favorable things” about changes in the legislation and that “makes the case that passage of national health care reform is an urgent national priority.”

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