There are two ways to get health care reform through the House. The first is to try to minimize the number of Democrats who defect over abortion along with Bart Stupak, while flipping an equal number of Democrats who voted against the first bill (but might favor an approach more like the Senate bill.) The upside of this plan is that it's procedurally pretty simple. The downside is that it requires turning Nos into Yesses, which is the hardest political sell for Democrats.
The second way is to make a deal with Stupak. And it sounds like Stupak is receptive:
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."
The political upside here is clear: Stupak's supporters all votes for the original bill, so they have little to gain by flip-slopping and a ton to lose if reform goes down. What I don't understand yet is how the procedure would work. I doubt they can change any abortion language through a reconciliation bill. So would the plan be to pass the Senate bill through the House, pass a reconciliation patch, and then pass a third bill handling abortion? Or do they imagine some deal involving an executive order, a vote that may not take effect, or something else? I'd love to hear exactly what they're negotiating over.