A lesson for kill-bill-ers: Conference is NOT free-for-all

I have been, for a while, speaking out against the manipulation of the netroots by the likes of Jane Hamsher in their narrow attempt to kill any health insurance reform bill without a public option.  Everyday, the mob at the kill-bill upper echelon takes new tactics to attack people on the left, people like Bernie Sanders, John Lewis, Rosa Delauro and Barack Obama, while their leader graces the screens of Fox Noise.  So it's no surprise that today would be a new tactic.

Today, FDL-paid blogger 'slinkerwink' posts on Daily Kos with outrage.  Outrage, I tell you, that Obama is "a President that's comfortable with restrictions on women's reproductive rights."  Well, this is, of course, not quite the story.

The real story, for anyone who cares to pay attention is as follows: the House passed a restrictive Stupak Amendment that banned all health insurance plans offered on the exchanges receiving public subsidies from offering any abortion coverage - even if women paid for it themselves.  The Senate, under a filibuster threat from Sen. Nelson of Nebraska, a compromise was reached by the White House, Sen. Nelson, and pro-choice senators ably represented by Barbara Boxer.  That compromise was that companies participating in the exchange must convincingly show through laborious accounting methods that they are not using any public funds or subsidies to fund abortion coverage.  States could opt out of even that.  Both Nelson and Stupak amendments are, admittedly, bad.  But if you are pro-choice, and you had to pick one, which would you choose?  I can bet that without exception, a pro-choice person would choose the Nelson language over Stupak.  And that is all the President has done.  He has said that he prefers the Nelson language over Stupak.

Now, slinkerwink complains that both are regressive, that Planned Parenthood and NARAL are opposed to both, and that as such, I assume, she (and her employer, FireDogLake) would like that the president should advocate for both to be dropped in conference.  Except, Ms. paid-by-Jane-Hamsher, he can't do that.  The rules of conference do not allow conferees to drop similar provisions that both houses of Congress passes.  Here's proof:

Rules of the House, 111th Congress - Rule XXII
9. Whenever a disagreement to an amendment has been committed to a conference committee, the managers on the part of the House may propose a substitute that is a germane modification of the matter in disagreement.  The introduction of any language presenting specific additional matter not committed to the conference committee by either House does not constitute a germane modification of the matter in disagreement. Moreover, a conference report may not include matter not committed to the conference committee by either House and may not include a modification of specific matter committed to the conference committee by either or both Houses if that modification is beyond the scope of that specific matter as committed to the conference committee.
In other words, you can't drop things included in both bills, and can't modify beyond the scope of the specific matter (i.e. completely drop it).

In case anyone is wondering, the Senate has similar rules.  Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule XXVII:
2. (a) Conferees shall not insert in their report matter not committed to them by either House, nor shall they strike from the bill matter agreed to by both Houses.
Case closed.

And for all the FDL's use of the Nelson amendment to gin up a kill-bill crowd, we did not hear a single call from them to kill the bill when it was passing the House - with the Stupak amendment, which is worse than the Nelson language.  Sure, they opposed the Stupak language too, but when the bill was going through with the Stupak amendment, they did not ask for it to be killed.  I am forced to conclude that FDL and slinkerwink are using the abortion language as merely a pawn in their self-aggrandizing fight to take down a bill because it lacks a public option.  They are willing to accept an even more restrictive language on abortion if only the public option can be made available (albeit grudgingly).

I am not mad at FDL simply because they are opposing the health care bill.  They are doing this in a disingenuous, dishonest, scorched earth manner that is both devoid of intellectual debate and similar to right wing tactics.  We, as progressives, cannot let that stand.