bart stupak,new york times, office.jpg
I got the idea for this post’s title from a piece at the New American, which hitchhiked off an interesting New York Times article yesterday. Before I get to that, a snip from the NA piece:

In the end, will he be Bart Stupak? Or will he be Ben Nelson?
Nelson is the Democratic Senator from NE who started holding out for restrictions on abortion coverage, but wound up selling out for more pork for his state….

So while the bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve, with Nelson’s support, contained no restriction on abortion coverage, it did include increased largesse for Nelson’s NE. Other Senators, including Joe Lieberman (I-CT) cut similar deals. But at least Lieberman made no pretense of holding out for the sanctity of human life.
Stupak appears to be one of a different breed of legislative cat. He may be part of a vanishing cast of critters not on the EPA’s list of endangered species. Bart Stupak may stand to the end on principle, even if it means healthcare reform is stillborn again in Congress.

And here are excerpts from the New York Times article, which is a good read in its entirety….

Mr. Stupak insists that the final bill include his terms, which he says merely reflect current law. If he prevails, he will have won an audacious, counterintuitive victory, forcing a Democratic-controlled Congress to pass a measure that will be hailed as an anti-abortion triumph. If party members do not accept his terms – and many vow they will not – Mr. Stupak is prepared to block passage of the health care overhaul.
“It’s not the end of the world if it goes down,” he said over dinner.He did not sound downbeat about the prospect of being blamed for blocking the long-sought goal of President Obama and a chain of presidents and legislators before him. “Then you get the message,” he continued. “Fix the abortion language and bring the bill back.”…

Mr. Stupak says his stand is a straightforward matter of Roman Catholic faith, but it also seems like the result of a long, slow burn. As dinner progressed, the congressman described years of feeling ignored, slighted or marginalized by his party for his anti-abortion views.
“We’re members without a party,” he said. “Democrats are mad at you, and Republicans don’t trust you.”
His father attended seminary before marrying and later sent his 10 children to Catholic school until tuition money ran out….
In the primary, he beat a candidate who supported abortion rights. But when he tried to hire Democratic political consultants for the general election, they refused – with expletives, he says – to work for a candidate with his views.
Mr. Stupak won anyway, and his freshman year in Washington, he requested but did not receive a seat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. “I had 1 or 2 members tell me I’d never get on because I’m right-to-life,” he said….
When Republicans ruled Washington, his fellow Democrats had to listen to anti-abortion views, he said. But with Democratic victories, abortion rights supporters felt their time had come.
But Democratic control of the House carries a paradox: because the party expanded by winning what had been Republican districts, it has more members who oppose federal financing for abortions and restrictions on guns. Mr. Stupak’s measure on abortion passed the House with the support of 64 Democrats.
“Before, when we talked about pro-life Democrats, you’d get a snicker and a laugh,” he said. “We were just always overlooked. We’re not overlooked anymore.
Now the disagreement over abortion financing has become a game of chicken, with Mr. Stupak saying he and 10 or 11 others, whom he would not name, will vote against a final bill that does not meet his standards, and some backers of abortion rights threatening to do the same in what is expected to be a close vote.
Last fall, Mr. Stupak told constituents that even if his amendment failed, he would still vote yes on the overall health care legislation — he merely wanted to vote his conscience first. Now he says that statement applied only to the bill’s early version.
“You fight for a principle you’ve believed in your whole life, then you fold up the tent?” he said….
Mr. Stupak says he urged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to toughen its stance on the legislation; representatives from the conference and the National Right to Life Committee did not return calls….

[JLS note: What does that mean?]

He is trying to pass the health care overhaul, he insists, not sabotage it, and predicts that the legislation will ultimately collapse for reasons apart from abortion. But he will be blamed anyway, he is sure.
“I get the distinct impression that I’m the last guy the president wants to see,” he said.

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