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Gaming Out Stupak's Next Move

Bart Stupak is not the only key figure in the health care debate -- the Democrats coul try to peel off some of his supporters and make a deal without him -- but he certainly is a key figure. Stupak has been looking at three basic choices:

1. Try to get an abortion deal tagged on to the reconciliation "patch." That would mean at least one Republican would have to join the Democrats to waive any rules forbidding non-budgetary items being added to a reconciliation bill.

2. Oppose the bill.

3. As reader (and former Hill staffer) Eric Altshule suggested, Democrats can attach to an appropriations bill this summer a provision applying the Henry Hyde abortion language to the new health exchanges. Altshule argues that this would give Stupak his goal and health care reform.

Which will it be? Well, all 41 Senate Republicans have signed a letter pledging to block any anti-abortion language via a reconciliation. That would seem to rule out #1. So -- unless I'm missing some legislative options, which is entirely possible -- we seem to be down to two options: oppose the bill, or cut a deal like the one outlined by Altshule.

A few factors suggest a deal is more likely. First, Stupak is sounding more conciliatory as of late. Second, fellow anti-abortion Michigan Democrat Dale Kildee now says the Senate abortion language is strong enough for him and he'll support the bill, weakening Stupak's position. An third, Stupak now has a credible primary challenger, campaigning on the argument that Stupak "has a right to his personal, religious views, but to deprive his constituents of needed health care reform because of those views is reprehensible." I'm sure that primary challenge would go nowhere if reform passes, but if it dies and Stupak votes no, he'll have some angry constituents.

Option #3, the Altshule option, looks like the clear winning move here. We'll see-- there could well be options on the table I'm not considering.