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Stupak – Obama kept his promises, Republicans sold him out.

March 31, 2011

Lest we need any more evidence that Republicans and allies were merely using the unborn as a weapon against health care reform, have a look at this interview with Bart Stupak, the man who courageously took a consistent pro-life position, and instead was attacked and vilified by the so-called defenders of life. It got so nasty, he left politics. He even received death threats. But we all owe him a debt.

Recall that the House had a passed a version of health care reform that included statutory language on Hyde amendment protections (making it permanent). Now, Stupak tells us that the Senate Republicans deliberately pulled the rug on this…because they realized it was about to pass:

“But, to be honest with you, I’d been working with some of the Senate Republicans on trying to find some way to do a technical corrections bill. And actually, truth be known, the Republican leadership in the Senate pulled the rug out on me on that on Thursday night, the Thursday before that Monday [when the final vote occurred]. Most people don’t realize that.

Anyways, long story short, I always thought we would have some statutory language. It wasn’t until Thursday before the vote that when the Republican leadership on the Senate side said no go … and the reason was that it would pass.

Health care would have passed the Senate with Hyde language?

Yeah. It would fly though the Senate. So they weren’t interested in getting health care passed, they were interested in killing it. So every suggestion, every legislative proposal I had–and I knew I had to get to 60 votes in the Senate–I was led to believe up to that point in time they’d work with me. And they pulled the rug out that Thursday before. Remember, they went home that Thursday night, or that Friday night there. They weren’t around that weekend when we voted on the health care bill.

Obama, on the other hand, has kept his promises:

“He’s upheld that executive order. When he signed it, he said this was an ironclad commitment–those were his words, ‘ironclad commitment,’ and I’ll give him credit. He’s done it. I say that maybe with a little bit of surprise in my voice, I always thought he would, but there was so much outrage from the Bishops and Right to Life that, ‘How could we trust this president, cause he’s the–‘ I hate to use the word–but ‘the most pro-abortion president ever, and you can’t trust him.’ Well, I trusted him, and that trust was well founded”.

We all know why Right to Life opposed health care reform – because they’ve always opposed health care reform. The fact that the bishops went along with them was an enormous tactical mistake. It will take years to undo the damage (although thankfully, we are seeing signs of subtle backtracking). The biggest problem is that they created all kinds of confusion over the right and wrong reasons for opposing health care reform, allowing too many Catholics to feel they could adopt tea-party liberal individualist principles on health care. To add to this, a small but vocal number of bishops have bought into the narrow hard-right view of Obama (a fund-raising talking point parroted throughout the noise machine). They don’t seem to realize that supporting this worldview – the worldview of an older, whiter, increasingly marginalized, evangelical right – will only end up setting back the cause of life.

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18 Comments
  1. Kurt permalink
    March 31, 2011 9:38 am

    although thankfully, we are seeing signs of subtle backtracking

    In Hill meetings, USCCB lobbyists have been practically apologetic for the Bishops’ stance and are very anxious to move beyond and not have to explain it.

    …allowing too many Catholics to feel they could adopt tea-party liberal individualist principles on health care

    I would respectfully disagree. Those with these views would not change if the Bishops had acted differently, even though they like to cite episcopal approval. And, in fairness, there are a certain number of politically left of center Catholics who would support health care no matter what abortion related provisions would be included.

    Of the small, but critically important segment of Catholic opinion that is firmly anti-abortion and firmly pro-universal coverage AND who strongly look to the bishops and Catholic Social Teachings for guidance, they overwhelmingly made a rare break from USCCB policy and supported the health care reform law. The Bishops lost their loyalist followers on this matter. The question remains have the permanently jeopardized the trust this element had in them on pro-life issues.

    They don’t seem to realize that supporting this worldview – the worldview of an older, whiter, increasingly marginalized, evangelical right – will only end up setting back the cause of life.

    Pro-Life progressives, a double minority that nevertheless was of immense political advantage to the pro-life movement may well be lost.

  2. Robert Klingle permalink
    March 31, 2011 11:15 am

    ” Right to Life opposed health care reform ”

    With out medical care for the sick where is your RIGHT-TO-LIFE. It is more a need-to-die.

    Sick people do not produce. Sick people are a drag on the society.

    Should the “right-to-life read Mat 25?

  3. March 31, 2011 12:40 pm

    What a disgrace.

  4. Bruce permalink
    March 31, 2011 12:44 pm

    A hypothetical question, out of my own curiosity: If it were up to you, and you alone, would you agree to passing a health care bill like the one recently passed if it guaranteed that one child (and only one) would be killed in the womb?

  5. Thales permalink
    March 31, 2011 1:37 pm

    I dunno — it seemed that the Republican party/leadership/senators/voters were always against the bill on principle, regardless of whether it had the Stupak amendment or not. I mean, remember the whole thing with Scott Brown running and being elected on the platform of defeating the healthcare bill? Once the Democrats lost their 60 Senate seats, I don’t think there was much chance for the bill to be re-passed in the Senate the way it was (with the individual mandate, etc.) regardless of whether it had the Stupak amendment or not. Obviously, I wasn’t privy to what some individual GOP Senators told Stupak in private, but I don’t think the GOP senators, as a whole, were ever on board for a Stupak-healthcare bill. In my opinion, with Scott Brown’s election, the bill was dead in the Senate, and would have had to have been re-written entirely to get even 1 GOP senator’s support.

    I know Stupak thinks the executive order is just as fine as his statutory language because Obama has kept his promises, but I don’t have as much confidence as Stupak. The order just does not have the same force of law as statutory language — maybe not Obama, but someone down the road might decide to ignore or modify the executive order.

    I wish Stupak would stop claiming that there was spitting on the legislators – he does that in the interview and I’ve heard him do that on radio interviews too. Yes, some Tea Party protestors were raucus; yes, one shouting guy was too close to a legislator and his saliva got onto the legislator — but there wasn’t any deliberate spitting on people. (And to stave off criticisms: no, I don’t condone the excesses of the Tea Party rallies so don’t identify me with them, just as I don’t think that VN posters condone the excesses of the Wisconsin rallies.)

    • Thales permalink
      March 31, 2011 1:46 pm

      A point in favor of Stupak from the interview, that I did not know: The fact that the White House tried to ignore Stupak and get an executive order and a bill passed without Stupak shows that they tried to get around Stupak’s abortion stance. So good for Stupak in standing on his principles, and good for the other Dem. legislators who wouldn’t go along with the White House without Stupak.

    • Kurt permalink
      March 31, 2011 8:34 pm

      Thales,

      I think you miss Bart’s point. The Republicans were opposed to the entire health care bill — we all understand that. They did not have the votes to stop enactment, only the votes to make the Democrats have to go through a convoluted process to pass the bill and limit the Democrat’s ability to make any revisions or changes. I understand the tactic of attacking a “poison pill” to a bill to kill it. But the issue here is that the GOP could have allowed a Stupak revision to the bill, but decided not to. The abortion issue was not that important to them.

      I know Stupak thinks the executive order is just as fine as his statutory language

      I don’t think he does. I think he, like I do, would prefer statutory language. But we have accepted the durability of the Hyde Amendment for decades and passed other legislation with the expectation and confidence that Hyde would be continued.

      And by “we” I mean the USCCB, the national right to life organizations and the Republican Party. On dozens of bills it has been okay in the eyes of these parties and for decades they made no effort or even a gentle call to codify Hyde. If one of these groups had said “I know I’ve accepted this in the past, but here I have decided to draw a line in the sand”, I would disagree but understand that. Instead what was said is that suddenly this is an article of faith. What on other legislation BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the health care bill was acceptable was suddenly unacceptable. You can understand, I hope, why I find this unconvincing.

      • Thales permalink
        April 2, 2011 8:21 am

        Kurt, you might be right about what the GOP senators could have approved or not approved. I simply am not sufficiently informed about the Senate rules and what exactly happened during the whole chaos of the healthcare bill’s passage to agree or disagree with you.

        Re: Hyde amendment. Since the Hyde Amendment only affects funds from HHS, was there a concern that Hyde wasn’t going to cover the healthcare bill, at least in part? (I ask because I don’t remember if that was an argument made back at that time.)

        Regardless, I agree with you that there has been plenty of hypocrisy on both sides regarding Hyde – that the GOP hasn’t lived up to its promise of being pro-life in taking steps to put forward pro-life initiatives when it had the chance, like making Hyde permanent. So maybe you’re right to be cynical about the abortion opposition to the healthcare bill. Since I wasn’t sufficiently informed about the legal implications of the bill (and I didn’t read it), I don’t know… but I tend to trust the people who have done the research, and that’s why I defer to the USCCB position on this (I don’t consider them to be simply an arm for the GOP).

  6. Kurt permalink
    March 31, 2011 2:34 pm

    A hypothetical question, out of my own curiosity: If it were up to you, and you alone, would you agree to passing a health care bill like the one recently passed if it guaranteed that one child (and only one) would be killed in the womb?

    Bruce,

    I think you have the kernal of an honest discussion there if you could shape up what your point is. But left as you phrased it, I think it is equivalent to asking the question “Would you support tax cuts and reduction in government spending to stimulate the market if you knew that an economic recovery would lead to one women being to afford an abortion she would not otherwise be able to procure?”

    • Bruce permalink
      March 31, 2011 3:12 pm

      Hello Kurt! That is not the question I asked. I asked if it were up to you, and you alone, would you agree to passing a health care bill like the one recently passed if it guaranteed that one child (and only one) would be killed in the womb? This is just a simple curiosity on my part to see what folks would say.

      • Kurt permalink
        March 31, 2011 8:16 pm

        Bruce,

        Could you give that to me in legislative language?

      • Bruce permalink
        April 1, 2011 8:18 am

        Hello Kurt! I’m not looking for that, but rather, simply looking to hear how someone would answer that question. I’m not sure why it would be that difficult, because I’m not trying to make this more complex than it ought to be. It is only a hypothetical question.

      • Kurt permalink
        April 4, 2011 8:52 am

        I’m not sure why it would be that difficult, because I’m not trying to make this more complex than it ought to be.

        Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t have a clue what you are asking.

  7. March 31, 2011 4:58 pm

    I find it absurd that the Hyde amendment language was pulled b/c it would make the Senate amiable to the bill. They did not have 60 votes after Brown’s election. Which Republican would have switched and voted for Obamacare just b/c the Hyde amendment was in it? I don’t doubt that the GOP was playing politics with abortion in the healthcare debate, but Stupak’s newest explanation of the process is implausible (and remember he had a different explanation that Monday then he did that Friday, if I remember my dates right). I’m pretty sure Nancy Pelosi had a lot more to do with the Hyde language being present than anything the minority party did.

    As far as Obama’s trust being well-founded, I have a hard time feeling as cozy as Stupak, particularly since the President is threatening to veto the entire budget if Planned Parenthood is defunded.

    • Kurt permalink
      April 4, 2011 3:19 pm

      As far as Obama’s trust being well-founded, I have a hard time feeling as cozy as Stupak, particularly since the President is threatening to veto the entire budget if Planned Parenthood is defunded.

      There is no risk in him saying so. Its a silly amendment that won’t survive.

  8. April 4, 2011 7:58 am

    Again, if all the Catholic Democratic Senators supported Stupak, it would be the law today.

    It does not surprise me that the Republican Senators opposed the health care bill — I don’t recall them pretending otherwise.

    • April 4, 2011 9:11 am

      To clarify where I’m coming from, I don’t think either party is the exclusive repository of virtue or vice. My suspicion is that things like treachery and deception and corruption are pretty much evenly distributed between the political parties, just as they are between men and women, between private and public employees, etc.

      So horror stories about how dastardly one political party’s behavior is don’t tend to move me, because I generally assume there is horror story on the other side.

      My problem with President Obama with regards to this particular debate isn’t my suspicion that he will go back on his promise. My problem is that he had to have his arm twisted to agree to it in the first place.

      It’s that he’s wrong on a particular issue.

      I also think the Republicans were and are wrong about health care.

      Ultimately, what this is about is which matters more. I can understand how some come to different answers, and that this answer may be somewhat fluid as circumstances change.

      But the answer shouldn’t change because of stories of how nasty one side is.

  9. Kurt permalink
    April 4, 2011 8:57 am

    It does not surprise me that the Republican Senators opposed the health care bill — I don’t recall them pretending otherwise.

    Yes. But I think the point was that with the Republicans not having the votes to stop health care, it is disappointing they would not allow a vote on a discrete techincal amendment only so they could continue to rail that the bill falls short of what they want on life issues.

    Again, if all the Catholic Democratic Senators supported Stupak, it would be the law today.

    As a self-standing bill, maybe. Not if it was part of a package of health care reform that the GOP was going to fillibuster.

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