Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On Last-Vote Eve, Bishops to Senate: "The Health-Care Bill Is Deficient"

Christmas might be coming, but on Capital Hill, the health-care reform battle rages on.

In their latest intervention in the debate, the US bishops' "three wisemen" -- the bench's chairs for Pro-Life Activities, Domestic Policy and Migration -- issued another letter late today, this time calling on the Senate "not to move its current health care reform bill forward without incorporating essential changes to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all." Along the way, the chairs deemed the existing legislation "deficient" in "all the areas of [the church's] moral concern," saying the bill "should be opposed" barring remedies to the measure's "fundamental" problems.

The letter reiterates the conference's "priority criteria" -- provisions to "keep in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections on abortion; protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access; and include strong provisions for adequate affordability and coverage standards."

After last week's efforts at a near-ban on abortion funding failed both on the floor and in earning the bishops' "morally acceptable" sign-off, Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson -- the lone holdout among the 60-member majority -- threw his support behind the Senate bill after agreeing to compromise language on the hot-button issue that one USCCB official called "crazy" in today's Washington Post.

After a second procedural vote passed early this morning on a 60-39 margin, a final Senate vote on the bill was set for 7am Thursday.

Here below, today's letter from the USCCB chairs (either tap "fullscreen" or right-click for larger text):