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Stupak: Health Care Bill Will Stall if White House Strips Abortion Restrictions

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Rep. Bart Stupak asks questions during a hearing on auto dealership closures June 12 on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo)

The author of a controversial amendment restricting federal funding for abortion coverage on Tuesday predicted that health care reform legislation would stall if the White House tries to step in and strip it out. 

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., dismissed a claim by White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod that President Obama would intervene to change the language, saying Axelrod is clueless on the issue and that such an intervention would imperil the bill. 

"They're not going to take it out. If they do, health care will not move forward," Stupak told Fox News. "We won fair and square. ... That's why Mr. Axelrod's not a legislator. He doesn't really know what he's talking about." 

The abortion amendment was tacked on to the House health care bill and was a key factor in securing the votes of moderate Democrats before the bill was approved by a narrow margin earlier this month. The amendment went beyond preventing the proposed government-run plan from covering abortion to restricting federal subsidies from being used for private plans that offer abortion coverage. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the language "raised a comfort level with many members." The bill passed by a narrow margin even after the abortion language was added. Hoyer offered no predictions for its fate in the Senate and beyond. 

"We'll have to see how that is handled in the Senate and then in the conference," Hoyer said. 

The passage drew recriminations from abortion rights supporters like Planned Parenthood, which called on the White House and Democratic lawmakers to reverse the measure. Axelrod answered the call in an interview Sunday, saying the amendment changes the "status quo," something the president cannot abide. 

"The president has said repeatedly, and he said in his speech to Congress, that he doesn't believe that this bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion," Axelrod said. "This shouldn't be a debate about abortion. And he's going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed ... I believe that there are discussions ongoing to how to adjust it accordingly." 

Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" that the president believes that issue, as well as the ongoing dispute over what kind of government-run insurance plan, if any, should be included in the overhaul, "can and will be worked through before it reaches his desk." 

The president also said last week that he did not support the amendment. 

But Stupak said the bill would have a difficult time getting through the Senate without such restrictions, and said that if it bounces back to the House without the amendment, the administration could lose "at least 10 to 15 to 20" votes. 

"The majority has spoken. Most people agree -- do not use public funds for abortion," he said. "You're not going to summarily start dismissing amendments which the majority of the House of Representatives wanted because some person, David Axelrod or someone, doesn't like it."