After months of talk, Health Care Reform is finally getting its first official congressional debate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) has begun what promises to be weeks of work toward crafting legislation. If you want to watch, you can find it here.
HELP is only one of five congressional committees that will have some say over the final product, and if it’s an example of how the process is going to play out in each of them, it could be a while before anything comes up on the floor of either house.
Republicans have filed some 300 amendments in the HELP committee. Among them are nearly a dozen that will have some impact on access to reproductive health care. These efforts include several by Tom Coburn. His proposals include one to establish an office on Unborn Children’s Health, another to allow health care providers to refuse to provide any service to which they have a “moral objection,” and yet another to use federal funds to help recruit and train staff for crisis pregnancy centers (“clinics” which exist to intimidate women into carrying pregnancies to term.)
Other amendments include several to restrict services at School Based Health Clinics. All of these will undermine reproductive health care.
But there are a host of other amendments which are clearly designed for the sole purpose of slowing down the process. Some are kind of funny, like this Coburn amendment to prohibit the use of health care funds from being used to build football stadiums. Others propose changing the names of sections of the bill to “Slush Fund for Special Interests” or “Federal Takeover of Local Communities.” They’re not serious. They’re not designed to further the discussion or to contribute to a better bill. They’re written to try to stall.