Pre-Vote Stupak: ‘I’m Not Going to Run From the Issue’; Senate Bill Will ‘Go Down in Flames’

By Pete Winn | April 9, 2010 | 3:04 PM EDT

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

( - In December, the day before the Senate passed its health-care bill, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) told that abortion language in Senate version of the bill was unacceptable, that the bill would “go down in flames” in the House, and that he and other pro-life Democrats were under extreme pressure from the Obama White House and House Democratic leaders to change their position on the issue.
A defiant Stupak vowed at the time he would not bow to the pressure. “If they expect the House to accept the Senate bill--it’s going to go down in flames,” he said. 

At the same time, he pointed out that he was under a great deal of pressure. “We’re getting a lot of pressure not to say anything, to try to compromise this principle or belief, and we’re just not--that’s just not us. We’re not going to do that," he said in a Dec. 23 interview with "Members who voted for the Stupak language in the House--especially the Democrats, 64 Democrats that voted for it--feel very strongly about it. It’s been part of who we are, it’s part of our make up, it’s the principle belief that we have, we are not just going to abandon it in the name of health-care."
When asked what kind of pressure he was under, Stupak treplied: “Well, from the House leadership, or the White House--a lot of pressure," said Stupak. "They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language."

He added: “Well, I don’t need anyone to sell me the language. I can read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with it. I know what it says. I don’t need to have a conference with the White House. I have the legislation in front of me here.”

Stupak said he had been asked to "just to hold off for a while and not to say anything about this language" but said he wasn't going to back down.

"I’m not going to run from the issue," said Stupak. "I’m going to stand up and say, ‘Look, here’s my objections. Here, it’s not just my objections, but there’s a number of my (colleagues) who feel strongly about this issue, and these are the parts that have to be fixed."

Stupak cited three major problems with the bill besides the fact that it funded health care plans that covered abortion:
“Number one, you have certain states getting certain exceptions--all the rest of us who live in states that did not receive that exception, why would we be inclined to give Nebraska or Florida or Louisiana a special break underneath the bill and expect the rest of us to pay for it?
“Secondly, people who have decent health insurance plans--we’re going to tax them. Aren’t you really going to force more people off health insurance?
“Thirdly, the seniors take some cuts in the Senate bill that are not found in the House bill. That members are not going to accept,” Stupak said.


The congressman made a flat prediction about the bill’s fate if protections against taxpayer funding of abortion were not added.
“If they expect the House to accept the Senate bill--it’s going to go down in flames,” he said.
Stupak rejected outright any possibility of voting for a bill that contained the Senate language on abortion written by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). In fact, when asked if he was prepared to vote for the Senate bill--and Nelson’s softer language on abortion -- Stupak replied:
“No, absolutely not. The Senate bill will not receive support in the House if they tell us we have to take the Senate bill without changes--it will not survive the House.”
Despite his vow, on the final day before the House vote last month, Stupak did in fact cave-in to the pressure – and the Nelson abortion language was never changed. Citing a deal reached with the White House for an executive order by President Obama prohibiting taxpayer funds from going to abortion as justification, Stupak voted for the bill.
On Friday, Stupak announced his retirement from the House and that he would not seek re-election.