Despite Fox News report, Oberstar still undecided on health reform

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Updated: March 11, 2010 - 1:19 PM

The call from a Fox News media relations associate in New York City came late Wednesday afternoon with this headline. The network's chief political correspondent Carl Cameron had supposedly confirmed that Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar was one of the pro-life U.S. House representatives who planned to change their "yes" vote on health reform to "no.''

The reason I got the call in Minneapolis? I'd written a short opinion/exchange item last week wondering if Oberstar was part of the the Stupak 12 -- the dozen congressional representatives that Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak claimed recently would now vote against the Senate bill because its language on abortion funding is somewhat less restrictive than the House reform bill. Both the Senate and the House passed health reform late last year. The House is set to vote on the Senate version late next week as Democrats try to finalize reform through the reconciliation process.

The House bill only passed by five votes last November so it's possible that abortion differences could scuttle the whole bill. Oberstar is a staunch pro-lifer, and as I wrote last week, remains undecided on the issue, but hopeful that compromise will allow him to support reform. Despite the Fox News report, nothing has changed. Oberstar still remains undecided, said Oberstar spokesman John Schadl, who contacted Fox after I put in a call to him Wednesday.

Fox News, which sent me an email demanding "***MANDATORY CREDIT (for) FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S CARL CAMERON***" if I riffed off its "reporting" on Oberstar, looks like it backed off when it came to Oberstar's position. Originally, it had Oberstar as a part of the "on-the-record-no's" because of abortion. The story now on its web site now says: "Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, another Democrat who voted yes last year, is still undecided, Oberstar Communications Director John Schadl told Fox News."

Schadl also provided a transcript of an interview with Oberstar that ran on Sirius XM radio on Monday. The reporter (it's not clear if it's Cameron) asks Oberstar about the Star Tribune post. Oberstar's response doesn't sound like someone who's willing to give up easily on passing health reform: "We might have to vote for the Senate bill to move the process along so we get to reconciliation, in which case the agreements discussed in, hopefully worked out last week at the White House on the issue, will then come in play on the conference report that we'll vote on -- so that whatever we do, if we have to vote on the Senate bill, we'll be at (an) interim step.''

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