This vote was on an amendment by David Vitter, D-La., that would stipulate that funds in the underlying bill may not be used to pay for abortions, or to pay for the administrative costs associated with a health plan that covers abortions, with some exceptions for the health of the expectant mother.
The amendment was offered to a bill that would change and extend through fiscal 2017 the law that directs federal health care benefits for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Vitter said currently what his amendment would prohibit is illegal, but that it must be renewed year-to-year as part of the appropriations bill that funds federal Native American spending.
“It is a very tenuous policy that is subject to change and a vote and a change in policy every year,” Vitter said. “This amendment will solidify that policy.”
Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said Vitter’s amendment is unnecessary because federal law already prohibits funds from being used to provide abortions. He also said it is unclear what the impact would be of some portions of Vitter’s amendment.
“This is not a mainstream amendment that everybody is clear about. In fact, there is a provision in this amendment on page 2, section B. I don’t know what it means, and I don’t think Senator Vitter knows what it means. There have been no hearings, no discussion, yet onward through the fog on amendments like this,” Dorgan said. “Having said all that, again, this is not a debate about whether Federal dollars should be used for abortion services. Current law already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortion services.”
By a vote of 52-42, the amendment was adopted. All but three Republicans voted for the amendment (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania). Of Democrats present, all but nine voted against the amendment. The most progressive senators all voted no. The end result is that the Senate adopted the amendment that would prohibit federal funds in the underlying bill from being used to provide abortions.