Obama Told House Democrat He Wasn’t Talking about House Health Bill When He Told Congress ‘Our Plan’ Doesn’t Fund Abortion

October 26, 2009 - 3:55 PM
"I don't know if it is a game of semantics or what," Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) said of President Obama's nationally televised declaration to Congress that the health-care plan will not allow federal funding of abortion.
Bart Stupak

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) told CNSNews.com that President Barack Obama told him in a telephone conversation that when he said in his Sept. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress that “under our plan no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions” he was not talking about the actual bill drafted in the House but about the president’s own health care plan—which has never been written.

“I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what,” Stupak said of Obama’s nationally televised declaration to Congress that the health-care plan will not allow federal funding of abortion.

Both the House and Senate versions of the health-care bill permit federal funds to pay for insurance plans that cover abortions. 

In his speech to the joint session of Congress, Obama directly rebutted the claim that the plan would fund abortions, calling it a “misunderstanding.” But in his later telephone conversation with Stupak, according to the congressman, Obama said that when he claimed in the speech that the plan would not fund abortions he was not talking about the House plan, he was talking about his own plan.



CNSNews.com read Stupak the verbatim transcript of President Obama’s joint-session-speech statement about abortion funding: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

CNSNews.com asked Stupak: “Is that a true or false statement?”
 
“That is exactly what he said,” said Stupak.
 
But is it an accurate statement?” asked CNSNews.com.
 
“I called him,” said Stupak. “I called the president--had a discussion with the president. And I read exactly what you just said. And he said: ‘What it says is “under my plan”’—meaning the president’s plan. And I said: ‘With all due respect, sir, you do not have a plan. The only plan we have out is the House plan.’ So, I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what.”
 
CNSNews.com then asked Stupak if Obama was referring to a plan that existed only ‘theoretically, some different plan than the one you actually drafted in committee?”
 
“Correct. Correct,” said Stupak. “And when I pointed this out, he said: ‘Go back and work with the people on your committee and get this matter worked out. Work with the speaker.  Work with us, would you?’ And I said: Yes, I would. And we have tried. But we haven’t been able to resolve our differences because we do not want public funds going for abortion.”
 
Stupak serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel that has primary responsibility for crafting health-care legislation. The House health-care-reform bill approved by this committee would create health insurance “exchanges” in each state where people using federal subsidies to purchase their insurance could choose the plan they want from among a group of government-approved plans.

On July 30, the committee approved an amendment to the bill sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D.-Calif.) that mandates that at least one insurance plan in each exchange must cover abortions.
 
On Aug. 19, in a radio presentation, President Obama nonetheless said that it was “not true” that the bill would allow government funding of abortion. On Aug. 21, the independent group FactCheck.org analyzed the bill in light of this statement by President Obama and concluded: “Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans.” 
 
The Senate Finance Committee’s health-care bill had not been completed at the time that President Obama delivered his Sept. 9 speech to Congress. When it was completed, however, it also included a provision like the Capps Amendment. Thus, both House and Senate versions of the health-care bill as they now stand would allow people to use federal dollars to buy health insurance plans that cover abortions.
 
In the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Stupak offered his own amendment to the health care bill that would have prohibited federal funds from being used to cover “any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.” This amendment mirrors the language of the Hyde Amendment that is included each year in various annual appropriations bills. Because the Hyde Amendment only affects funding included in the appropriations bill that carries it, its prohibition on abortion funding would not apply to the permanent funding stream for federal health insurance subsidies that would be set up by the health-care reform bills drafted by the House and Senate.
 
On July 31, by a 27-to-31 vote, the Energy and Commerce Committee defeated Stupak’s effort to include the Hyde language directly in the health-care bill itself and thus prohibit abortion funding through that bill and the programs it would create.
 
Stupak told CNSNews.com he has organized a group of “about 40 likeminded Democrats” who will try to kill the health care bill itself unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) agrees to allow an up-or-down vote on his amendment when the bill comes to the House floor.

"The speaker has told me I will not have my amendment," said Stupak. "It will not be made in order."

Stupak also said that during his telephone conversation with Obama the president indicated that he supports Stupak's goal of prohibting federal funding of abortion through the health-care reform plan, although the president did not say that he supports the specific language of Stupak's amendment.
 
"I would call upon the President to help us out here," said Stupak.

Here is a partial transcript of CNSNews.com’s interview with Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.):
 
Jeffrey: “When President Obama came and spoke to the joint session of Congress on September 9th, he said, quote: ‘And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions” unquote.  Is that a true or false statement?”
 
Stupak: “That is exactly what he said.”
 
Jeffrey: “Okay, that is what he said. But is it an accurate statement?”
 
Stupak: “I called him. I called the president--had a discussion with the president. And I read exactly what you just said. And he said: ‘What it says is “under my plan”’—meaning the president’s plan. And I said: ‘With all due respect, sir, you do not have a plan. The only plan we have out is the House plan.’ So, I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what.”
 
Jeffrey: “So President Obama did not tell you, Congressman Stupak, that the plans that have been drafted in the House—the bill that actually came out of your committee—does not fund abortion.”
 
Stupak: “He did not say that.”
 
Jeffrey: “He did not assert that. He said that ‘his’ plan--”
 
Stupak: “His plan.”
 
Jeffrey: “Theoretically, some different plan than the one you actually drafted in committee?”
 
Stupak: “Correct. Correct. And when I pointed this out, he said: ‘Go back and work with the people on your committee and get this matter worked out. Work with the speaker.  Work with us, would you?’ And I said: Yes, I would. And we have tried. But we haven’t been able to resolve our differences because we do not want public funds going for abortion.”
 
Jeffrey: "Did President Obama indicate to you that he supports your amendment?"
 
Stupak: "He is supportive of what I am trying to do. However, we are getting down to crunch time. And I would call upon the President to help us out here. The speaker has told me I will not have my amendment.  It will not be made in order. It will not be part of 3200. So the Capps language—which [means] citizens would have to start using their funds, public funds, to pay for abortions--will be part of 3200. And I will not have an opportunity on the House floor to delete that language or put the Hyde language in there to supersede the Capps language."
 
Jeffrey: "So, the president has represented to you that he supports the goal—"
 
Stupak: "Yes."
 
Jeffrey: "--of prohibiting federal dollars from being used to buy insurance that covers abortions?"
 
Stupak: "Yes."
 
Jeffrey: "Without saying that he supports your specific language?"
 
Stupak:  "Without saying he supports my specific language."