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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

April 1, 2013 at 11:27 AM

State Sen. Steve Hobbs: Abortion measure has needed Senate votes

Updated with Republican reaction

State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, says a House bill requiring health-insurance plans to cover abortions has the 25 votes needed to pass the Senate.

He released a letter Monday with the signatures of 25 senators, as a hearing was being held in the Senate on House Bill 1044. The legislation passed the House 53-43 in February.

Hobbs, the sponsor of a Senate version of the bill, and other supporters have been pushing for a floor vote since then, but the GOP-led caucus in the Senate has resisted.

That appears to remain the case. When asked if the letter changed anything, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, would only say, “I’ll bet there are bills that have 50 plus votes in the House that aren’t moving, too.”

Senate Health Care Committee Chairwoman Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, would not stop to answer questions when I saw her outside the Senate wings on Monday.

Democrats have been saying for awhile that they believed they had the votes needed to approve the measure, but this is the first time they’ve produced a letter. The letter was written, and dated, March 5. But it took Hobbs awhile to collect all the signatures.

Hobbs said he’s gotten no indication from Republicans –- who control the flow of legislation in the Senate – if they’ll bring it up for a vote. “They aren’t telling me anything,” he said.

Two of the senators who signed the letter, Sens. Rodney Tom and Steve Litzow, belong to the majority caucus. Tom, D-Medina, crossed party lines on the first day of the session along with Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, to give Republicans control of the Senate. Tom was appointed Senate majority leader. Litzow, R-Mercer Island, has long indicated support for the measure.

Democrats have talked about trying to use a controversial procedural move to outmaneuver the majority and bring the bill up for a floor vote. Hobbs, however, said that although the votes exist to pass the bill, he’s not sure the votes exist to bring it to the floor.

Supporters say the law is needed to ensure continued access to insurance coverage of abortions. Opponents have argued the measure is not needed because all insurers in the state already cover abortion.

The Reproductive Parity Act would require insurance companies to continue to cover abortions once the national health-care law goes into full effect in 2014. There’s uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the future.

Comments | More in Politics Northwest, State Legislature | Topics: Reproductive Parity Act, Sen. Rodney Tom, Sen. Steve Hobbs


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