Do Catholic bishops have same influence in the Senate?
By Michelle Boorstein
The role of the U.S. Catholic bishops in the health care debate has gotten a ton of attention, with some people believing the church had a powerful role in getting a House amendment passed to limit the availability of abortion in any government-supported plan. I don't think it's that black and white. My sense from talking with people who followed closely the backroom negotiations is that it was the pro-life Democrats (and there are dozens of them) who yielded the power, not the bishops or their lobbying arm, the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops.
Speaking of the bishops, having spent a couple days with them in Baltimore last week, at their annual conference, they are a more diverse group than the average American might realize. Sure, their leadership has made clear that the bishops need to feel comfortable with the abortion language in any health care law. However, the range of views on how prominent to make that issue in the broader goal of getting universal health care passed is wide. Some bring it up right away. Some don't bring it up at all.
It will be interesting to see how the church advocates - and how its advocacy is portrayed - as the action moves into the Senate. The dynamic there is totally different, with no key senator tied tightly to the abortion issue. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Catholic from Pennsylvania and one of the most prominent pro-life Democrats, is considered a leader on health care and doesn't seem likely to tie the vote to a single ultimatum on life issues.
Michelle Boorstein| November 23, 2009; 1:27 PM ET | Category: God in Government Save & Share:
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