In the past, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has voted against federal funding of abortion even though she supports legalized abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision. But Landrieu's spokesman Aaron Saunders told THE WEEKLY STANDARD tonight: "We expect her to oppose" Senator Ben Nelson's amendment to ban abortion coverage from the public option and federally-subsidized plans.
Asked why Landrieu would oppose the Nelson amendment despite her past record, Saunders said Landrieu will explain her position tomorrow. In 2008, Landrieu was one of nine Democrats in the Senate to vote for an amendment similar to Nelson's on the Indian Health Service bill:
Federal-funding of insurance plans that cover abortions is very unpopular--according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 61 percent of Americans think insurance plans purchased with government assistance "should not be allowed to include coverage for abortions." Opposition to federal funding is likely stronger in a red state like Louisiana where many Democrats (like former senator John Breaux and Rep. Charlie Melancon) are pro-life.
While no one expects the Nelson amendment to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass when it's likely voted on tomorrow, the issue could scuttle the Democrats' health-care bill. Rep. Bart Stupak said he will lead a group of pro-life Democrats to vote against final passage in the House if this amendment isn't included in the conference report. And Senator Nelson has said he will filibuster the bill if his amendment isn't included in the final version. After tomorrow's vote, we'll have a better idea of which Democrats may join Nelson in making this ultimatum (Bayh, Pryor, and Johnson are good candidates). Democrats might then be forced into making a play for pro-choice Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
Voting against the Nelson amendment could hurt a number of Democratic senators, such as Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, running for reelection in 2010. A pro-life group has already run ads attacking Harry Reid for saying he could vote for a health-care bill that funds abortion. Mary Landrieu faces reelection in 2012.
Update: A Louisiana TV station reports that "while [Landrieu spokesman Aaron Saunders] did tell The Weekly Standard he 'expects her to oppose' the amendment, he meant that she would oppose further restrictions on funding for abortions;" Saunders would not tell the reporter whether Landrieu will vote for or against the amendment.