Attorney General Martha Coakley said this morning that she would have voted against the landmark health care bill approved by the House over the weekend because it includes a provision restricting federal funding for providers of abortion services.
Coakley this morning, in an interview on WTKK-FM, said her opposition to that aspect of the legislation is so strong that she would have voted against the overall bill, which would provide coverage for 36 million Americans, establish a limited public insurance plan, and prohibit insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions.
Her position opens up a potentially major fissure in the US Senate race, with Coakley now on the opposite side of the issue from rival US Representative Michael Capuano, who voted in favor of the plan. Though Capuano voted against the so-called Stupak-Pitts amendment restricting abortion coverage, he voted in favor of the bill.
Capuano, giddy over a discernible difference with the presumptive front-runner, called Coakley’s comment “manna from heaven.”
“I find it interesting and amazing and she would have stood alone among all the pro-choice members of Congress, all the members of the Massachusetts delegation,” Capuano said in an interview. “She claims she wants to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy on health care. It’s pretty clear that a major portion of this was his bill.”
“If she’s not going to vote for any bill that’s not perfect, she wouldn’t vote for any bill in history,” Capuano added. “She would have voted against Medicare, the civil rights bill. Every advancement this country has made has been based on bills that had flaws in them ... Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington.”
The other two candidates in the Democratic primary, Stephen Pagliuca and Alan Khazei, did not immediately respond to requests for how they would have voted.
The health care debate now moves to the Senate, where the abortion provision will surely be a major point of debate.
Coakley, who is counting on strong support from women voters who support abortion rights, released a statement Sunday criticizing the amendment in the House plan.
"The inclusion of the Stupak/Pitts amendment violates the very intent of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for everyone," she said. "I believe that the Senate has a responsibility to fix this by eliminating the provision in whatever reform legislation moves forward."
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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