Wednesday: Obama to Sign Order on Abortion; Senate Picks Up Debate


Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., holds up a copy of an Executive Order banning the use of federal funds to be used for abortions, which will be signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.)

A day after signing health care reform into law, President Barack Obama on Wednesday will sign an executive order reaffirming restrictions on federal funding for abortions.

The executive order was vital to securing support for the bill from a key bloc of anti-abortion Democrats led by Michigan’s Bart Stupak. But unlike Tuesday’s celebratory East Room ceremony, Wednesday’s signing will be a private event in the Oval Office.

That’s probably a good thing for Stupak, according to the New York Times’ Prescriptions blog, which points out, “He is being hammered by both the right and the left for bringing along the votes that, in the end, helped turn Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul into law.”

Over on Capitol Hill, the Senate resumes debate on the package of fixes to its original health bill approved by the House on Sunday. On Tuesday, Senators met for more than seven hours on the reconciliation bill, which among other things, includes increased subsidies for low- and-middle-income Americans to purchase insurance.

Under Senate rules, debate on reconciliation measures is limited to 20 hours. After that, the chamber holds a rapid-fire series of votes on amendments to the package known in Senate parlance as “vote-o-rama.” The reconciliation process prevents a filibuster, but Republicans can still alter the bill by introducing amendments that, if passed, would send the measure back to the House.

Explains congressional scholar Norm Ornstein: “Most likely, Republicans will use their amendments for a few days to dramatize their opposition, but since the bill has passed the House with great fanfare, it is doubtful that they would risk the criticism of obstructionism by trying to extend the debate for weeks. So a final resolution by Saturday or Sunday is most likely.”

Clinton to Meet With Pakistani Counterparts

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top members of the Obama administration’s national security team meet with their Pakistani counterparts Wednesday for talks on forging closer ties between Washington and Islamabad. While the relationship has improved in recent months, “The partnership remains precarious and prone to suspicion, eruptions and posturing,” says the Washington Post.

Pope Accepts Resignation of Irish Bishop

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Irish bishop John Magee, who has shaken the Catholic Church after a 2008 report concluded he mishandled charges of sex abuse by clergy members of his County Cork diocese.

“I take full responsibility for the criticism of our management of issues in that report,” Magee said Wednesday.