(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat from Michigan, “remains optimistic” that he can work out language with House Democratic leaders on federal funding of abortion, the main sticking point in getting a health care bill to President Obama’s desk.
Stupak said on Tuesday he had “meaningful discussions” with two leading House Democrats -- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) -- and more are planned for later in the week.
But Stupak’s press secretary Michelle Begnoche told CNSNews.com that no deal has been reached. “Congressman Stupak has not reached an agreement on abortion funding in the health care legislation,” she said.
Stupak and 11 other House Democrats oppose the current, Senate-passed version of health care reform because they say it allows federal funding of abortion. Stupak has promised, along with 11 other pro-life Democrats, to vote against the bill if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brings it to the floor for a vote.
In an interview with Fox & Friends Wednesday morning, Stupak said he would stick to the principle that no taxpayer funds should be used to pay for abortion.
“There’s at least twelve Democrats who have said that they could not vote for health care unless we get to keep the current law, which says no public funding for abortion,” Stupak said, referring to the longstanding Hyde Amendment. “Most Americans agree with that,” he said. “All the polling I have seen -- 60 percent, 61 percent -- have said, ‘We do not want our taxpayer dollars going to fund abortion.’
“I want to see health care pass, Stupak added, but there are some principles worth fighting for. This is one of them.”
Again on Wednesday, Stupak committed himself to having discussions with House leaders in an attempt to resolve the issue. “But the bottom line is, there has to be no public funding for abortion. That’s been the law for 33 years. The president indicates he doesn’t want to change current law. Let’s just put current law in the (health care) bill and move forward and work on health care, which we should be working on,” he told Fox & Friends.
At his weekly press briefing Tuesday, Rep. Hoyer told reporters that while he has talked with Stupak, they had not discussed anything “of substance.” “I have had no negotiations with Mr. Stupak,” Hoyer said.
“Now, I could lie to all of you and say, ‘Oh no, I haven’t talked to him, I don’t know anything about this.’ If I said that, you wouldn’t, hopefully, believe me.”
Hoyer said Stupak approached him on the floor of the House, wanting to talk about the abortion issue. “I said ‘OK.’ We have not yet talked – about substance,” Hoyer said. “We have talked about his meeting with me and we will talk – he wants to talk to me.”
Stupak’s office confirmed Hoyer’s account: “Congressman Stupak expects further meetings this week and remains optimistic that language can be worked out,” his office told CNSNews.com.
Stupak told Fox & Friends on Wednesday he’s been having “good, positive discussions” with Rep. Waxman: “He’s sort of the person who they’ve indicated I should work with because the main health care bill came through the Energy and Commerce Committee.” Stupak sits on that committee, which Waxman chairs.
Stupak’s willingness to meet with House leaders – and his optimism over a deal – comes after he told the Wall Street Journal there was no way he would support the current version of health care reform.
“Nope,” Stupak told the Journal when asked if there was any way he could vote for the current package. “It’d be very hard to vote for this bill even if they fixed the abortion language.”