Bob Casey: Like father like son?

bob-casey Bob Casey Jr. must be really irritated with father-son comparisons by now. In 1992, the Democratic Party denied a speaking slot to his father, then-Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey Sr., at the national convention. Casey Jr. spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention but merely mentioned his "honest disagreement" with President Obama on abortion.

Casey's pro-life stance now puts him in an uncomfortable spot during health care debates over whether the government should fund abortion. It appears that he didn't anticipate the disputes. "I can't speak for what the House is doing and what members are doing in the House, but in the Senate, I don't think that it (the abortion issue) is going to be an impediment to getting this legislation passed," Casey told in July.

In recent articles, The New York Times and Time magazine paint Casey as the middle ground in the dispute.

Starting with the Times, David Kirkpatrick gives some helpful history and context about Casey and his father, but stops a little bit short.

Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania wants to talk about health care, Medicare, children's insurance, a public option--anything but abortion.

But that is pretty much impossible because Mr. Casey is the country's most prominent "pro-life" Democrat.

This is where Kirkpatrick could expand a bit more because from what I understand, Casey isn't exactly the darling of the pro-life movement. For example, Casey was criticized earlier this year for voting to allow federal funding for overseas clinics that provide abortions by overturning the Mexico City policy.

Kirkpatrick sets up Casey as the compromise in the debates, and buried way way down, we see one of his suggested solutions.

Senate Democratic aides and outside advocates, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the legislation was still being shaped, have said for weeks that Mr. Casey and his staff members were quietly conferring with Senate Democratic leaders about modifying the bill in a way that might make it easier for those opposed to abortion to support.

Among the ideas said to have been discussed were removing a requirement that an insurance plan covering abortion be available in every market, precluding the government-run insurer from paying for the procedure, or fortifying the accounting rules to segregate any federal subsidies from abortion payments.

However, I want to know whether pro-choice and pro-life sides consider this a compromise. How would they respond to this idea?

Also buried in the article, we see how Casey dealt with the health care issue earlier this summer.

He broke with his party to vote in favor of an amendment adding the same abortion restrictions as the House bill. But when the amendment failed narrowly, he voted to approve the resulting bill anyway.

In a statement when the Senate opened debate last Saturday, he repeated that he thought the current segregated-accounts provisions still fell short of avoiding taxpayer financing of abortion and "will require more work as the bill is debated on the Senate floor." But he again stopped short of threatening to vote against the measure as it is.

The Times writes that The National Right to Life Committee is passing out copies of a speech that his father gave on the subject, but to whom? Is Casey receiving any other pressure besides that and a column in National Review? Kirkpatrick writes that abortion rights advocates say Catholic bishops are pressuring him, but is there a way to verify that?

It appears Kirkpatrick spoke with Casey, but he doesn't seem to be able to get much out of him. I am sympathetic because I know reporters often get a very short time to interview politicians, but I wish someone could pin him down more. Instead, Casey gives vague quotes like this about his lack of success.

"Human nature being what it is, people don't want to acknowledge that a problem exists when they know they have 35 other problems to deal with," Mr. Casey said. "Like everything else, hindsight is 20-20."

Similarly, Time breaks little ground with their article titled "Can a Pro-Life Dem Bridge the Health Care Divide?"

While Casey is speaking with other Senators on the issue and is considering other amendments, he's "not drawing any lines in the sand," he says. "I just think that there's going to be enough momentum to get a bill passed that one issue--even one very important issue--will not prevent passage." That said, when pressed, Casey, with a faint smile on his face, echoed the same line he told Stabenow in the meeting with faith leaders: "There's still a good bit of work to be done."

It's hard to believe that Casey will bridge the divide without a more concrete solution.

The Hill used similar quotes in a blog post about how Sen. Ben Nelson introduced a Stupak-like amendment.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), an abortion-rights opponent whom Reid tapped to craft an abortion compromise, emphasized a more measured approach.

Casey emphasized that negotiations over an abortion compromise were continuing, and urged fellow senators to resist sticking to too firm of positions in negotiations.

"It's ongoing," he said. "'Ongoing' is probably the best word."

"I've tried not to draw any lines, and I would hope none would either," he said in reference to his colleagues.

Casey said he's been in touch with Reid's office on the abortion issue and a number of other issues in recent days.

How is that "a more measured" approach than what Nelson is doing? He sounds fairly vague to me. Can anyone pin Casey down and get more details about this compromise? Otherwise, I'm not sure it's fair to paint him as the solution to the debates.

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