There was no shortage of drama at the nation's Capitol Saturday as House Democrats narrowly passed their final version of the health care reform bill -- and the Illinois delegation was right in the thick of it.
While every Illinois Democrat supported the bill, Reps. Dan Lipinski and Jerry Costello were key backers of the controversial amendment that secured its passage but has since deeply divided the party.
Lipinski rose in support of the Stupak amendment, which restricts public and private insurance providers who participate in an insurance exchange set up by the government from covering elective abortions.
Republicans unanimously supported the Stupak amendment, including North Shore congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk, who in the past has been regularly pro-choice.
Kirk's Senate rivals criticized him for abandoning his principles and abandoning women.
"By voting yesterday to block women from essential reproductive health care services, Mark Kirk has abandoned Illinois women and, consistent with his recent solicitation of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, cast his lot with the extreme, anti-choice right wing of the Republican Party," former Chicago Urban League president and Democratic candidate Cheryle Robinson Jackson said in a statement. "By his votes as well as his actions, Kirk has shown he neither understands nor cares about the health care needs of Illinois women."
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic frontrunner, attempted to tie Kirk's change of heart to his recent courting of Sarah Palin.
"Mark Kirk proved tonight he will abandon all of his principles to curry favor with right wingers like Sarah Palin," campaign spokeswoman Kati Phillips said in a statement. "He flip-flopped on the Clean Energy bill because the right wing demanded it, and now he has abandoned his once pro-choice voting record to take private insurance coverage away from women."
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic chair of the Women's Caucus, called the Stupak amendment "a back door way of overturning Roe v. Wade."
"This health reform bill is about improving access to care, not further restricting a woman's right to choose," Schakowsky said on the House floor. "Our bill is about lowering health care costs for millions of women and their families, not further marginalizing women by forcing them to pay more for their care."
Freshman Congressman Mike Quigley also criticized the amendment as unfair to women who can't afford private insurance and who would be turning to the insurance exchange for coverage.
"This amendment says only women who can afford insurance deserve access to reproductive health care," Quigley said on the House floor. "This amendment says that women who need a little help paying for health care have to surrender their right to privacy."
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