Stupak: WH Pressuring Me to Keep Quiet on Abortion Language

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 2:22pm

UNDATED - Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have been pressuring him not to speak out on the "compromise" abortion language in the Senate version of the health care bill.

“They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” Stupak told CNSNews.com in an interview on Tuesday. “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.”

The Michigan Democrat succeeded last month in getting 64 House Democrats to join him in attaching his pro-life amendment to the House version of the health-care bill. The “Stupak amendment,” as the provision is known, would prohibit the federal government from allocating taxpayer money to pay for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

Stupak had contact with the White House last weekend, when the Senate voted 60 to 40 in the wee hours of Monday morning to shut off debate on the Senate version of the bill.

The current version of the Senate bill contains so-called “compromise” language crafted by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). This language does not bar taxpayer funding of health plans that cover abortion, but does create a firewall to supposedly keep federal money from being used to pay for abortions. Over the weekend, Stupak issued a statement calling the proposed Senate language "unacceptable."

"A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage," said the statement.

In his interview with CNSNews.com on Tuesday, Stupak said that the White House "asked me just to hold off for awhile and not to say anything about this language. But as soon as the news broke that they had this [compromise], and they got the 60 votes, folks were asking me, and I’m not going to run from the issue 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 said he is not alone in being pressured from the White House and the House Democratic leadership – other pro-life Democratic colleagues apparently are, as well. But they plan to hold firm, he said.

“We’re getting a lot of pressure not to say anything, to try to compromise this principle or belief,” Stupak said. “[T]hat’s just not us. We’re not going to do that. 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, 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 if he has the votes he needs to stop the bill if, in its final version, it does not include the language of his amendment or nearly identical language, Stupak did not answer directly.

“Well, if all the issues are resolved and we’re down to the pro-life view or, I should say, no public funding for abortion, there’s at least 10 to 12 members who have said, repeatedly, unless this language is fixed and current law is maintained, and no public funding for abortion," said Stupak. "There’s 10 or 12 of us, and they only passed the bill by 3 votes, so they’re going to be short 8 to 9, maybe 6 to 8 votes. So they [Democrats] do not have the votes to pass it in the House.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants a vote on a final bill before Christmas. After that, a House-Senate conference could convene in early January to merge the Senate and House versions of the bill and lead to a final vote by both chambers.