(Editor's note: After this story was filed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to House Minority John Boehner's comment that the Senate health care bill includes federal funding for abortion. "My colleague, Mr. Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion, and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills. And I don't want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said," Pelosi said.)
(CNSNews.com) – House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told President Barack Obama to his face at Thursday's health care summit that the president's new health care proposal, which is based on the bill approved by the Senate, would allow taxpayer-funding of health plans that cover abortion. The president did not respond directly to Boehner's direct charge, but suggested that all that Boehner said was merely the "standard talking points" and Democrats would "profoundly disagree" with many of them.
Boehner also criticized the president's plan for creating "a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country" and "an employer mandate ... that says that employers, you've got to provide health insurance to the American people, or you're going to pay this tax."
On the abortion issue, Boehner told Obama: “For 30 years, we’ve had a federal law that says that we're not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We've had this debate in the House. It was a very serious debate. But in the House, the House spoke. And the House upheld the language we have had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions. This bill that we have before us--and there was no reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President—begins, for the first time in 30 years allows for the taxpayer-funding of abortions.So, Mr. President, what we've been saying for a long time is let's scrap the bill. Let's start with a clean sheet of paper on those things that we can agree with."
In response, Obama did not directly address Boehner’s flat assertion that Obama's proposal would use tax dollars for abortions. Instead, he accused the Republican leader of wasting the group's time with talking points.
“John, you know, the challenge I have here--and this has happened periodically--is we're having, every so often, we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points that Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year," said Obama. "And that doesn't drive us to an agreement on issues. There are so many things that you just said that people on this side would profoundly disagree with--and I would have to say, you know, based on my analysis, just aren't true--that I think that the conversation would start bogging down pretty quick."
Boehner was the lone legislator to bring up abortion at the event, even though it has been a major issue in the health care reform debate. In the House health care bill that passed in November of last year, an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was included that specifically prohibits the use of federal funds for health plans that cover abortion. A similar amendment sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was not allowed to be included in the proposed Senate bill.
In a letter to the president dated Feb. 24, Boehner asked that Stupak be invited to take part in the health care summit.
“I write today to respectfully ask that you invite Rep. Stupak to participate in the February health care summit so that the will of the American people – and that of a bipartisan majority in the House – on the critical issue of life will be appropriately represented during the discussion,” Boehner wrote.
Stupak told CNSNews.com that he had not expected to be invited to the summit because the decision on who attended was up to the president and party leadership, and many of his colleagues had done more work than he had on health care issues.
He also said his absence does not dilute his resolve to make sure that pro-life taxpayers are not forced to pay for abortion.
“It’s very clear where I stand,” Stupak told CNSNews.com.
He said he could not say how the debate on federally funded abortion would go moving forward because the president’s plan is only a proposal and not legislation.
“It’s hard to know when there is no language before you,” Stupak said.
Thirty eight members of Congress took part in the summit, 17 Republican and 21 Democrats. C-SPAN televised the six-hour “bipartisan” debate, which unfolded mostly along party lines.
In previewing the event, Obama said the group would be debating four topics: controlling costs, insurance reform, reducing the deficit and expanding coverage.